The Individual Education Plan (IEP)

To order your copy of the IEP Guide for Parents, IEP and Learning to Listen Order Form (14) and fax it to VOICE for Hearing Impaired Children, 416-487-7423

The IEP – A Parent Perspective

By Dorothy Boothroyd, Donna Dewar and Stan Draffin

An Individual Education Plan (IEP) is mandated for students identified as exceptional by an IPRC, or for students who have not been formally identified but whose achievement will be assessed based on modified expectations, and/or who require accommodations for instructional or assessment purposes. Briefly stated, the IEP sets out what is different about the content, delivery and/or assessment of a student’s program from that of other students in his or her grade. It is likely that most students who are deaf or hard of hearing, including those who are fully integrated, will require an IEP.

The IEP is an action plan that must be informative, relevant and succinct. Here are ten key issues of which you as parents should be aware as you participate in the IEP development process.

  • The IEP is generated by your child’s school but the opportunity for your input during the development phase is mandated. As in all matters pertaining to your child’s education, your relationship with the school regarding the IEP should be collaborative.
  • There is a direct relationship among assessment, program and evaluation of outcomes. It is therefore essential that you share any assessment information you may have, e.g., audiological, speech/language, Auditory-Verbal Therapy (AVT) reports, with school personnel.
  • The IEP should list the Human Resources that will be provided to your child by the school board. This includes the type of service, initiation date, frequency or intensity, and location. Principals are not always able to commit themselves to frequency or intensity of service. Parents, however, should work collaboratively with principals to ensure that adequate support is available.
  • It is important that parents inform themselves about key language pertaining to IEPs. For example, terms such as Accommodations, Modifications and Alternative programs have specific meanings about which parents should be knowledgeable.
  • Many students who have been auditorily trained since an early age may only require Accommodations to optimally access the curriculum of the age-appropriate grade, and be assessed on their performance. Accommodations are special teaching and assessment strategies, human supports, and/or assistive technology that help the student learn and demonstrate learning, e.g., note-taking, real time captioning, amplification devices. Accommodations do not alter curriculum expectations for the grade. It is important that all teachers who have contact with your child agree on the Accommodations that will be provided, including those for provincial assessments.
  • Students who experience difficulty with the provincial curriculum for the grade will have a Modified program. That means that many of the learning expectations will be derived from a lower grade level or be modified in number and/or complexity from the regular curriculum. Of course, some students who are deaf or hard of hearing are able to exceed the expectations of the grade.
  • The IEP must delineate accelerated learning expectations if this is the case. The IEP must also include those aspects of the student’s program that do not stem from the curriculum. These are called Alternative learning expectations. For the child who is deaf or hard of hearing, these generally include developmental communication skills.
  • The IEP does not contain every aspect of the student’s program. It lists a representative sample of Modified and/or Alternative learning expectations only. These are the performance tasks on which the student will be assessed and on which the marks/grades on the Provincial Report Card will be based. Three to five learning expectations per subject/skill area suffice. This does not mean the child will be confined to learning just these tasks. Of course he or she will participate and learn as part of the classroom community. However, it is these skill areas that must be specifically assessed and reported on. Please remember, MORE IS NOT BETTER in the case of an IEP.
  • If your child’s program contains Modified and/or Alternative learning expectations, these must be reviewed and revised, as appropriate, for each term of the school year. The initial IEP must be completed within 30 school days of a student’s placement in a Special Education program, that is, usually by the middle of October. For elementary students, the subsequent IEPs should be available for parent consultation at the time of parent interviews relating to the first and second term report cards. For secondary students, new IEPs are required for each semester of the school year.
  • The IEP must be written in language that you as parents fully understand. The various components should flow logically from Assessment Data through Areas of Strength and Need to the Accommodations and program area. If necessary, ask for clarification.

The IEP is not a stand-alone document. It is connected to the IPRC (if applicable), to the curriculum and to the Provincial Report Card. As school boards strive to improve student outcomes, the IEP will become an increasingly important accountability tool for educators, parents and especially students. SEACs may wish to consider providing workshops to inform parents about their role and responsibilities relating to their child’s IEP.

Dorothy Boothroyd, Donna Dewar and Stan Draffin are partners in Boothroyd Dewar & Draffin, Special Education Consultants. Their website is at www.bddedcon.com