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Productive Individual Education Plans (IEP) for 2013

Updated on September 10, 2013
JT Walters profile image

JT Walters has a Master's of Science in Behavoralism from Florida State University. She is a researcher in many professions in Florida.


For most parents of a child with special needs the Individual Education Plan (IEP) process can be laborious, none productive and exceptionally overwhelming. There are times as a special educator I felt it was unfair to the parent as they were the experts in their children who wanted to have input but did not know how to effectively participate in the IEP process. This article is designed for parents who wish to engage in their child’s IEP process to access the most effective education for their child that is available in public schools.


If a school tries to tell you teaching is an art then run because you are dealing with a school which embraces subjective measures of your child. Subjective measures are nothing more than evaluations based on teacher’s opinions. While I do not agree with tests such as the FCAT or standardize testing a child throughout the school year, I do believe in objective measures.

What is an objective measure? It is really quite simple. The special education teacher or any teacher for that matter should be taking data on your child’s performance in class. For instance there are only three curriculums which have any scientific evidence that they are effective. One of them is the SRA corrective reading series. It has a very controlled vocabulary and no one should rely upon it as the only curriculum but it does have its merits for the beginning reader. As a teacher I could tell every parent in an IEP how many words their child read in a one minute timed session and how many errors that child made. I also conducted an error analysis on each error and determined if there was a flaw in logic which was the genesis of the error. If you are not dealing with a special educator who can speak to you about your child’s performance at parent teacher conferences long before the IEP then you need to ask yourself why?

I also took data twice a week on each child. I charted it and studied trend lines. I added more interventions if necessary and if I was unable to get the child to increase his/her performance I was on the telephone with the parent. That is, the parents I could get on the telephone. You can always keep lines of communication open with the teacher if she/he is open and if not then you have to ask yourself again why not?

So your first question at the IEP is… Is there a Scientifically valid curriculum which proves my child will learn from this material? The FCAT, a test in Florida, does not teach. Education has to begin with teaching before testing.

The second question is… Can I see the data you have taken throughout the year which proves my child has improved with the academic interventions you have used? If not, where is the data?

The third question is..Will you call me immediately if there is a problem?

Make certain the answer to all three questions are placed on the IEP for each subject your child is taught.

Behavioral Plans

IEP sometimes include behavioral plans. In most instances it is better to address this in the IEP setting then to not address it at all. In the simplest terms it is better to strike while the iron is cold. If your child is in a special education class more than likely he/she will be under a behavior modification program which the teacher will use to control the class. In general special education classes are under funded and the student numbers are high. As a special education teacher I had an aid that only showed up to work every thirteenth day to work. I was out number twenty five to one with some children who were banned from the mental institution because of their behavior. I used several behavioral systems within my classroom to manage my students. But if a child had a specific problem like self injurious behaviors I would write a separate plan for that child. In many instances I was running many behavioral programs at once but was very successful extinguishing (eliminating) some children’s self injurious behaviors.

Find out about the behavioral modification plans in the class in advance. I ran a level system in my more severe class but would double down with a great deal of positive reinforcement enforcement. I would never use a level three behavioral plan which means I wouldn’t use hand over hand. Hand over hand could be as simple as me helping a child write. But I did not touch a child for which I did not have a plan in place. Level three procedures are quite controversial. Negative reinforcement could be used but ultimately I found my students had been subject to far worse negative reinforcement in their lives then I was prepared to use on them. So I went to positive reinforcement after they completed the level system.

Behavioral Support Plans

Additional Therapies

Many parents have their children receive therapy at school which is much easier then having them receive it at home. Some parents do both which provides for better generalization. But it is good to speak to the therapists in the IEP and ask then about the settings and the ratios which they will provide their service. In one classroom the therapists would come into my room and do group therapies which were not one on one but more like six on one. Then the therapists expected me to continue the therapy treatments throughout the week as they only saw their clients once a week. School systems are overwhelmed with therapy needs and have few therapists which will work at the rates the school systems are willing to pay. So if your child receives speech, occupational therapy or physical therapy it is best to ask, where, when, how often and what are the ratios.


There should never be an IEP meeting without a technology assessment. Every child should have the benefit of technology to assist them in learning. Good questions to ask are what technology will be provided for my child. There are two classifications of technology in special education.

The first is low technology. For children with autism, ADHD or other sensory integration issues a simple example would be a visual schedule for the child to remind him or her what they should be doing each day. Another example would be a social story to help the child transition to making friends. These are all low cost low tech items which a school can readily provide.

The second class is high technology. For autism again there is a device called a dynavox which is an augmentative communication device. This device runs about $9000 but is invaluable to families of non-verbal children. Ipads are also high tech devices which have become quite popular for the special education crowd.

Augmentative Communication

Your Goals For Your Child

Finally the actual creation of the IEP, they mass produce these in schools and the ESE departments run through them so quickly parents don’t have any input. You have every right to ask and expect to have your goals for your childs on the IEP. If your child has difficulty putting a straw in his/her juice then you have a right to request that be placed on the IEP. The occupational therapists will address this but you still must ask. If your child has difficulty reading it is reasonable to ask the team how they will scientifically address this and what data collection method they will use. Other goals might include having your child make friends and learn social skills. These are all reasonable requests which your child is entitled to learn in a special education class.

Parents should walk into every single IEP with expectations of how the meeting will go. They can consult an advocate but be wary and make certain the person is an expert in the field. Your advocate has to have a higher level of education then anyone sitting at the IEP table.

If your child has a severe disability it maybe entirely appropriate to ask about wrap around services. Wrap around services means services in the home after the child leaves school. A child with severe behavioral problems needs wrap around services as well as children who are profoundly handicapped. It is entirely appropriate to ask about wrap around services if your child falls into these categories.

Come prepared to the IEP with a list of what you think needs to happen in your child’s Individual Education Plan. For the typical child the school receives about $6000 annually and for the special education student the school receives about $9000. So the school is receiving far more funding for a child on an IEP than they are for the typical child so hold their feet to the fire and have high expectations for your child’s education.

Finally never give up and never surrender. Schools think they know it all but no one is a better expert in your child then you. Have the confidence to follow through. If you are threatened with due process have no fear school systems usually lose. It is an ordeal but it looks worse on the school then on the parent. There should never be an IEP that doesn’t discuss transition of your child from the Special education program to the mainstream/general education program. Make certain you have that conversation and the exact parameters under which the school will transition your child. If your child is in middle school they should have transition plan to adulthood where the child picks a trade and an academic program to follow. No child should be involved in education which is not goal oriented. And every parent needs to evaluate the feasibility of the programs in place to help their children achieve those goals. As I said to one parent I advocated for this year. You can’t trust the school to do their job so you must do your job as a parent at the school and hold them accountable. They are after all public servants which you pay.

And always make certain you are the last person to sign the IEP. If you disagree with anything written on the IEP draw a line through it and initial it. While you can not add anything at that point you can certainly take goals which you do not agree with off the IEP. No goals, no need for special education any longer. It is the quickest way to mainstream your child without consent of the school. Remember it is your consent the school needs. It is your child, they serve you and you know what is in the best interest of your child.


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    • JT Walters profile image

      JT Walters 5 years ago from Florida

      Thanks scribblingdaddy,

      I appreciate your support and thank you for your thoughful comments. I too look forward to reading your work in the future.

      All My Best,


    • profile image

      scribblingdaddy 5 years ago

      Best of luck with the new venture! I hope everything goes well. I learned some information about autism in college. Fascinating subject for sure. Thanks for being such a good correspondent! I'll look for more articles from you.

    • JT Walters profile image

      JT Walters 5 years ago from Florida

      Hi Scribblingdaddy,

      A 504 is a plan. It is used to accommodate children with less severe disabilities in mainstream classrooms. Most frequently we see 504 plans for children who are mainstreamed who have ADHD or receive speech therapy services.

      Yes, I have had parents who wished to express thier ideas about what they believed their children should learn who were not prepared for the IEP meeting. They had not done their homework and their suggestions were not considered which I thought was horrible.

      I wrote this hub to help those parents in the IEP process. As an edication professional I do try to help parents be more involved in their children's academics.

      Parents level of education is the number one factor which predicts their involvement in the IEP process. If they understand the culture of the educational system they seem to do well. IEP(S) in most instances didn't exist when grandparents where in school so I imagine they are lost unless they are educators.

      I doubt I will finsih my PhD. I am starting a corporation as we have discovered a new very effective treatment for children with Autism. We have just completed a trial and are in press now. We will seek funding next year to complete our corproations. If I went back to finish my PhD I would have to give my patents and copyrights to the University.

      Have a wonderful day!!


    • profile image

      scribblingdaddy 5 years ago

      Thanks for the response. I appreciate the feedback to my feedback! Just out of my own curiosity, what is the specific Federal Statute that states or mandates that it be a "plan" and not a "program?" I've studied a lot of school law and I've never heard of that. I guess I really do learn something new every day!

      I have been taught that a plan implies a loose, non-strategic implementation of differentiated instruction (a nebulous term at best) that is subject or grade-level specific. A program, however, implies that it is a structured, research-based implementation that follows a student throughout his or her school years and is modified as needed on a specific schedule, such as triennial reviews. A plan to me is more of a 504, which, as you know (!), is a civil rights statute and not a ESEA mandate. It would be so much better if State Departments of Education could get together and collate all of their terminology so we all use the same lexicon!

      Is is true that you have experienced low parental input for IEPs? That is sad and unfortunate. I wonder how to change that? Is it primarily low-income students that are on IEPs that you have administered? It would be neat to see the statistics on parental involvement in the IEP process and socio-economic level. Also, I wonder what the stats would be for students with IEPs who are being raised by grandparents or other relatives who are physically unable to attend the IEP formation meetings. Or, again, for the parents on the low end of the socio-economic scale, do they have transportation to get to the meetings? So many intangible elements that affect the IEP process. Sadly, these are often ignored or discounted by education professionals.

      Don't get me wrong- I am not at all trying to be argumentative, I am just curious and interested in all aspects of the art and science of pedagogy. Thanks again for your post! Good luck with your dissertation! I have considered pursuing a PhD program and maybe some day will, but right now I'm trying to raise two little kids!

      Last but not least, I would love your input on the blog about education that I have started on the hubpages site.


    • JT Walters profile image

      JT Walters 5 years ago from Florida

      Hi ScribblingDaddy,

      In Florida they are called Individualized Education Plans and then there are ESE programs. I suspected I would find there were regional difference but I thought it was more important to give the parents the tools they needed. The difference between a the word "Program" and "Plan" on an IEP would make the federal government completely liable when the supposed "program" wasn't executed while if it is onlhy a "plan" then the government limits its liability. Wow, would the lawsuits reign!! I am ABD and have practiced and I can assure you Special Educators spend a great dea of time in law classes.

      So I appreciate the read I wish you had gotten the overall message which was to help parents participate in their children's education.


    • profile image

      scribblingdaddy 5 years ago

      Thank you for your informative post. I know this is minutia, but IEPs are technically called "Individualized Education Programs." Most people refer to them as you did as a plan.

    • JT Walters profile image

      JT Walters 5 years ago from Florida

      Hi Man from Modesto,

      While those are wonderful tools I don't think they would be useful for my target audience which is parents who would like to have productive IEP(s). I think the internet is a wonderful supplemental tool and I have used many of the lessons off of youtube and the Khan Academy in my educational hubs which are great supplemental educational tools.

      I don't know if you have taken openware courses from MIT but the books are usually quite expensive and there isn't feedback from instructors which would not be appropriate at all for the special needs population in ESE classrooms.

      Great ideas on supplemental material I agree though and thank you for reading and commenting.


    • Man from Modesto profile image

      Man from Modesto 5 years ago from Kiev, Ukraine (formerly Modesto, California)

      For home schoolers, there are volumes of entire classes available FREE on YouTube and elsewhere. There is the famed Khan Academy and also MIT now posts many intro classes on the 'net for free.


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