WHAT IS AN INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PROGRAM?
Introduction

SPECIAL EDUCATION DELIVERY CYCLE

The IEP Process

Step 1:  Identification Of The Student
Step 2:  Determination Of Whether An Evaluation Will Be Conducted
Step 3:  Identification Of The Collaborative Planning Team
The Child Study Team
Step 4:  Evaluation
Initial Evaluation
Standardized Tests
Educational Tests
Psychological Tests
Functional Assessments
The Theory Of Multiple Intelligences
Step 5:  Determination Of Eligibility For Services
Step 6:  Identification Of The Student’s Strengths, Needs And Skills
Step 7:  Development Of Goals And Objectives
A Case For Teaching Functional Skills
Criteria For The Development Of Functional Goals In The IEP
Other Important Considerations
Step 8:  Identification Of Supports And Services
Program / Placement
Program Options
Resource Centers
Chart:  NJ State Special Education Code Class Types And Sizes
Obtaining Extended School Year Services
Least Restrictive Environment Preschool Placements
Related Services
What Are The Basic Types Of Related Services?
Step 9:  Identification Of Least Restrictive Environment
Step 10:  Eligibility Criteria
Crosswalk Of Eligibility Categories (Terminology)
Crosswalk Of Eligibility Categories (Descriptive)
Step 11:  Provision Of Ongoing Support And Monitoring
Monitoring Your Child’s IEP
Annual Reviews
Three-Year Evaluation
How Parents Participate As Collaborative Team Members
Active Participation In The IEP Meeting
The IEP Document
Required Components of the IEP
Frequently Asked Questions About IEPs
What to Include In Your Child’s Home File
BACK

CHAPTER THREE

WHAT IS AN INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PROGRAM?

*SPAN is in the process of updating this information to reflect changes to IDEA (The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)


Introduction

The Individualized Education Program (IEP) is the "road map" to your child's education.  It is both a process and a product.  Specific steps lead to the development of the document.  Chapter Three walks you through the steps in the process.  It explains what happens at each stage and identifies the participants and their roles and responsibilities. 

The process is as important as the product.  It begins with conducting tests and assessments, then knowledgeable school personnel and parents meet to determine whether the student needs special education services.  The develop-ment of an IEP requires that you think through your priorities for your child deeply and carefully.  The process concludes with a lengthy document, an individualized educational plan.  The plan is designed to address the individual strengths and weaknesses of the student.  But equally important, the IEP is the avenue by which parents become equal partners in educational decisions about their child.  By planning together, parents and professionals develop, monitor and evaluate a program that benefits the child. 

“If you are planning for a year, sow rice.

If you are planning for a decade, plant a tree.

If you are planning for a lifetime, educate a person.”

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SPECIAL EDUCATION DELIVERY CYCLE

Step 1: IDENTIFICATION

Step 2: EVALUATION (Parents must sign consent form prior to initial evaluation and all subsequent evaluations and prior to initial "placement" or receipt of special education services)

Step 3: DETERMINATION OF ELIGIBILITY

Step 4: INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PROGRAM (IEP) DEVELOPED (30 calendar days from determination of eligibility)

Step 5: IMPLEMENTATION OF THE IEP (90 calendar days from the date that parent signs the evaluation consent form)

Step 6: MONITORING OF THE IEP

Step 7: ANNUAL REVIEW AND/OR 3-YEAR REEVALUATION

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THE IEP PROCESS

1.  Identification of the Student
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2. Determination of Whether Evaluation Will Be Conducted
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3. Identification of the Collaborative Planning Team
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4.  Evaluation
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5.  Determination of Eligibility for Services
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6.  Identification of Student's Strengths, Needs and Skills
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7.  Development of Goals and Objectives
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8.  Identification of Supports and Services
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9.  Identification of Least Restrictive Placement
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1. Eligibility Criteria
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2. Provision of Ongoing Support and Monitoring  

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STEP 1:  IDENTIFICATION OF THE STUDENT

Sometimes parents know at birth or shortly after that their child will need special help and services.  At other times a learning difficulty does not become apparent until the child grows older and matures.  Each district adopts and maintains its own written procedures for identifying those students ages 3-21 who reside within the local school district who may be educationally disabled and who are not receiving special education and/or related services.  Children under age 3 who may experience developmental delays or disabilities must be referred to early intervention programs or other appropriate services.

Contact SPAN at 1-800-654-SPAN for our Early Intervention packet and guide.

ADVOCACY TIPS DURING IDENTIFICATION

1. Parents can identify that their child may be experiencing physical, sensory, emotional, communication, cognitive and social difficulties.

2. Parents can initiate the identification process themselves.  SPAN recommends that all such requests be made in writing.

3. Parents must be provided written documentation of the interventions attempted in general education settings.

4. Parents should monitor the intervention period closely and see evidence of progress.  If not, a formal written request for evaluation by the child study team should be made.

5. If the district in writing refuses to evaluate your child, your options are:

      a.  Mediation 
     
b.  Due process hearing (see also Chapter 6)  

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STEP 2:  DETERMINATION OF WHETHER AN EVALUATION WILL BE CONDUCTED

Once a referral is received, within 20 days the district or school meets with the parents to determine whether an evaluation will be conducted.  If you do not receive a written response from the school, you should request a meeting with the Director of Special Services in writing.

NOTE:  There is no "waiting list" for evaluations, even in the summer.  

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STEP 3:  IDENTIFICATION OF THE COLLABORATIVE PLANNING TEAM

In reality, there are actually two teams.  These are:

The Core Team:  The members who are involved directly in the day to day educational program which may include the parents; the student, when appropriate; peers; multidisciplinary team; general and special educators; local administrators; related service providers; and support personnel (i.e., paraprofessionals). 

The Support Team:  Consists of individuals who serve students on a more itinerant basis.  They may be social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, neurologists, nurses, vision specialists, audiologists, behavior specialists, etc.

Members of the teams need frequent access to each other for problem solving, decision-making and support.  Planning strategies need to be flexible to meet the changing needs of the student.  All team members are encouraged to provide support for each other.  Meetings occur on a regular basis and ongoing communication is maintained to keep all members updated.  

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The Child Study Team

The child study team is a multidisciplinary team of professionals, at least two of whom conduct the evaluation as follows:

A.  Learning Disabilities Teacher Consultant (LDTC)

* Reviews the student's educational history;
* Confers with the student's teacher(s);
* Evaluates and analyzes the student's academic performance and learning characteristics.

B.  Psychologist

* Confers with the student's teacher(s);
* Assesses the student's current cognitive (thinking and learning), social, adaptive and emotional status.

C.  School Social Worker

* Evaluates the student's adaptive social functioning and emotional development;
* Evaluates social and cultural factors that influence the student's learning behavior in the educational setting.

D.  Speech Therapist/Teacher (Children ages 3 to 5 years and children for whom speech and language delays are a part of their disability.) In addition, for every referred child, the School Nurse (Health and Medical):

* Reviews and summarizes available health and medical information regarding the child
* Transmits this summary to the team for the meeting to help in the consideration of whether there is a need for a health appraisal or specialized medical evaluation

The Child Study Team will prepare written reports of the results of their assessments.  Additional evaluations by specialists (at no cost to the family) may be required, (i.e., if a child is to be classified "neurologically impaired" a neurologist's evaluation is required; or for "emotionally disturbed" a psychiatric evaluation is required). 

It is important to seek out a specialist who is knowledgeable about the developmental needs of children and experienced in evaluating children with disabilities with an eye on what is educationally relevant.

Parents are a part of any decision-making team throughout the special education process.

Emilia Autin-Hefner, age 4

“If we don’t model what we teach, we are teaching something else.”

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STEP 4:  EVALUATION

After it has been determined by the parent and the Child Study Team that an evaluation is needed, the child study team notifies the parents in writing.  The team determines the pupil's communication skills and dominance in English or other native language.  Written consent must be obtained prior to conducting the initial evaluation and all subsequent evaluations.  

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Initial Evaluation

All evaluations must be completed in a timely manner.  After receiving parental consent for initial evaluation, the school district has 90 days to complete the evaluation, determine eligibility and, if the child is eligible, develop and implement the IEP. 

When a child turns three years old before the end of a school year, your school district may opt to contract services with your Early Intervention provider for the remainder of the school year including an extended school year program, if appropriate.  There should be no interruption of services.

Parents have the right to ask for written documentation of the law to verify what a Child Study Team or district tells them.  Sometimes parents are told that districts don't offer a program or they just don't "do" certain things in the district.  Request in writing to receive a copy of citations they refer to.  Also, it is wise to bring a copy of the New Jersey Administrative Code 6A:14 to meetings so that accurate references can be made.

If a parent withholds consent for evaluation and the school district feels strongly enough about the need for testing, the school district may request a due process hearing to try to get authorization from the Office of Administrative Law to carry out testing without parental consent. 

An initial evaluation must include at least two of the following areas: a) health, b) psychological, c) educational and d) social.   

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Standardized Tests

Standardized tests are typically used during evaluation procedures.  The law requires that where appropriate, or required, the use of a standardized test(s) shall be:

a. Individually administered;
b. Valid and reliable;
c. Normed on a representative population; and
d. Scored as either standard scores with a standard deviation or norm referenced scores with a cutoff score.

Tests are selected and administered to ensure that when a test is administered to a child with impaired sensory, manual, or speaking skills, the test accurately reflect the child's aptitude or achievement level or whatever other factors the test purports to measure, rather than reflecting the child's impaired sensory, manual, or speaking skills, except where those skills are factors which the test purports to measure.  

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Educational Tests

The educational evaluator (usually the Learning Disabilities Teacher Consultant) evaluates your child's achievement and related areas.  These tests diagnose difficulties in reading, spelling, mathematics, and spoken language.  The evaluator looks for an indication of learning disabilities or for consistently delayed performance, such as a child with reading scores two or three years below his/her actual grade level.  Scores on tests given by the educational evaluator are reported in terms of grade equivalents ("G.E.") or mental age ("M.A.").  An "M.A." of 6.1 means that the child performs at a level equivalent to a child 6 years and one month old.  The educational tests usually given are: the Wepman-Auditory Discrimination Test, the Peabody Individual Achievement Test, the Illinois Test of Linguistic Abilities, the Wide-Range Achievement Test, the Woodcock, and the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test.  

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Psychological Tests

1. IQ Tests: The "Intelligence Quotient" test is interpreted as a measure of a child's potential for academic achievement.  The IQ test compares the child who took the test to an "average" child of the same age: a full scale of 100 indicates that the child is exactly "average."  The law prohibits placing students in special education programs based solely on IQ scores alone.  The IQ test has also been determined to have a disproportionately negative impact on African-American and other children of color, so its use must be carefully determined and implemented.

2. Psychomotor Tests:  These tests measure a child's ability to copy designs, which is interpreted to indicate whether s/he has problems in visual perception.

3. Projective Tests: Projective tests are used to identify personality disturbances and are used by psychologists to evaluate a child's personality characteristics such as mood, attitude, anxiety, self-image, imagination, maturity, and perception of reality.  There are no right or wrong answers; the child's responses are interpreted subjectively by the psychologist who administers the test.

Adapted from: Securing An Appropriate Education for Children with Disabilities in New York City: A Guide to Effective Advocacy, by Advocates for Children of New York, January 1992.  

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Functional Assessments

In an effort to focus more closely on the educational needs of the pupil, functional assessments have been added as an additional component to the evaluation process.  They must include:

a. A minimum of one structured observation by a Child Study Team member in other than a testing situation (such as the child's classroom)
b. An interview with the pupil's parent(s), and other pertinent people - these can include the student, parents and family members, peers, friends, educators, and others
c. An interview with the teacher identifying the student (if applicable)
d. A review of the pupil's developmental/educational history, which can include a collection of student's work, formal and informal test results, medical history
e. A review of interventions documented by classroom teachers.

The functional assessment may include one or more of the following: surveys and inventories, analysis of work samples, trial teaching, self-report, criterion-referenced tests, curriculum-based assessment, informal rating scales, and other appropriate tools.

A functional assessment is another tool for assessing the skills and needs of students that primarily consists of interviews and observation.  An IEP should include goals and objectives that reflect functional and chronological age appropriate activities across a variety of integrated environments.  Always include a discussion of the student's strengths (see Positive Student Profile in Appendix C) when discussing assessment results. 

RIGHTS AND ADVOCACY TIPS IN THE EVALUATION CYCLE

1. Find out who are the members of your Child Study Team.  Identify the professional who serves as your case manager.  Provide information about your family that is educationally relevant (some personal matters have no bearing upon the child's education).

2. Network with other parents, especially those in your community.

3. You have a right to receive a copy of all of the test and assessment results.  Be sure to request copies of these results prior to IEP meetings to allow time to read and understand them.  Make sure they accurately reflect your child's strengths and needs; correct any inaccuracy or discrepancy [N.J.A.C. 6A:14-2.9].  Have a copy of your child's entire pupil record and ensure that every document is accurate, signed and dated.

4. The testing and evaluation must be completed by a multidisciplinary team using two or more evaluation procedures [N.J.A.C. 6A:14-2.5(a)].  You can and should review testing procedures and can ask for modification of, revision of, or additional procedures.  A minimum of one structured observation by a child study team member in an environment the child is comfortable in is required.  [6A:14-3.4(d)6]

5. Monitor the evaluation process.  Attend all scheduled evaluations with your child, particularly younger children.  Children are inherently different.  Settings for the testing environment should be applicable to that child's learning style.  Be sure that the method of testing is conducive to your child's needs, i.e., psychological tests should be performed in a small room with no distractions for a child with attention deficit disorder.

6. Assessments drive the outcome of the curriculum and if only pen and pencil tests are used, they may not accurately reflect the true ability of the child.  Functional assessments are new ways of evaluating students and are one of the components required as part of the evaluation process.  Observing the child in real environments in and out of school will reflect his/her true abilities.  Assessments also drive the day-to-day classroom instruction.

7. When consent for the initial evaluation is requested, the district must provide parents with a copy of their Procedural Safeguards which are found in Subchapter 2 of N.J.A.C. 6A:14.  These are rights and protections for parents, pupils and school districts.  

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THE THEORY OF MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES

Parents should be aware that there are new views of how to assess intelligence, which do not rely solely on IQ scores.  Traditionally, intelligence has been conceptualized as a single overall measurement of cognitive processing that changes very little with age and experience.  A newer theory by Howard Gardner redefines intelligence as the ability to solve a problem or to create a product in a way that is considered useful in one or more cultural settings.  Instead of accepting the notion of intelligence as a single entity, no matter how simple or complicated, Gardner points to the existence of several separate "families of abilities."  According to his theory, intelligence is not adequately captured by the ability to answer items on standardized tests.  Instead, the educational evaluation must encompass a broader range of abilities.

See Appendix B for more information on Multiple Intelligences, including tests and strategies.  Use the information you gather about your child when completing their Positive Student Profile, found in Appendix C.

SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS WHEN REQUESTING INDEPENDENT EVALUATION

You have a right to ask for an independent evaluation if there is a disagreement with the evaluation provided by your district.  This should be provided at no cost to you.  This testing may involve either a new set of all child study team evaluations or just one or two areas of testing.  The district must either agree to pay in a timely manner or request a due process hearing to prove their evaluation is appropriate (within 20 calendar days).

Getting a second opinion can often be helpful when there is disagreement with the evaluation(s) provided by your district.  Disagreements may be due to inaccurate, inappropriate or incomplete information.  An independent evaluation can provide a positive step in resolving conflicts at an early stage.  There is a formal procedure outlined in N.J.A.C. 6A:14 for parents who want an independent evaluation paid for by the district.  Following are some important steps:

1. Send a written request specifying your desire for an independent evaluation to your director of special services by certified mail or hand deliver and obtain a receipt.  Request either a partial or full child study team evaluation or specify additional evaluations provided by a specialist.  Make a copy of your request for your own records.  In your letter, request information about where to obtain an independent evaluation.  SPAN also has a list of state approved clinics and agencies.  You do not need to indicate why you want an independent evaluation.

2. Before you make an appointment for a second opinion, be sure you have received written verification of the district's plan to pay.

3. Remember that any independent evaluation submitted to the district's child study team must be considered in making decisions regarding special education and/or related services.  

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STEP 5:  DETERMINATION OF ELIGIBILITY FOR SERVICES

When the initial evaluation is completed, a meeting is held including the child study team and the parents.  The purpose of the meeting is to determine whether the pupil is eligible for special education and related services.

Whether or not a pupil is eligible for special education and related services, the parent(s) and the referring staff member must be given a written summary, signed by the child study team, of all decisions and recommendations.  If your child is determined to be not eligible for special education services, you can appeal this decision.

ADVOCACY TIPS REGARDING ELIGIBILITY

1.      Usually the eligibility meeting leads directly into the IEP meeting, so prepare yourself for participation in the development of the IEP.  If you feel you need more time to discuss the IEP you can request another meeting.

2.    We recommend strongly that once your child is determined "eligible" that you postpone discussion of the classification until your child's needs, annual goals and objectives, and appropriate services are discussed.  This avoids the problem of classifying a child, then having that classification drive the planning process.  Every child is entitled to have a unique program developed to address his/her specific learning abilities and needs.

If the team determines, after the evaluation cycle, that your child is not eligible to receive special education services the process ends here, unless you do not agree.  The team is responsible for determining if the student is eligible to receive services through Section 504 or referring you to the Section 504 team.  Read Chapter 2 on Section 504 for further information.  

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STEP 6:  IDENTIFICATION OF THE STUDENT'S STRENGTHS, NEEDS AND SKILLS

Schools often identify and focus on a student's deficits, and fail to look at the total child.  All children possess strengths and gifts that need to be identified as well.  Parents can play an important role in ensuring that their valuable knowledge and understanding of their child is reflected. 

See information on Multiple Intelligences in Appendix B and fill out Positive Student Profile and Goals-At-A-Glance in Appendix C in preparation for this step.  

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STEP 7:  DEVELOPMENT OF GOALS AND OBJECTIVES

For all children, we need to think about why we choose specific goals.  When considering goals and objectives that reflect your child's individual needs and abilities, keep in mind the following:

a. The New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards:  All children with disabilities must have goals and objectives that are tied to the CCCS, the information that all children are supposed to learn.  

b. Student preference: Teach the student responsible decision-making and provide opportunities to make choices every day - ranging from what to wear to how to use leisure time.  Respect your child's interests and preferences.

c. Parent preference:  We know our children well.  When developing goals our values and visions should be respected.

d. Chronological age appropriate:  Jim and Paul are 13 years old.  The skill to be learned is stacking.  Jim stacks dishes as he empties the dishwasher, a chronologically age-appropriate activity, as contrasted with Paul who stacks nesting cups, not chronologically age-appropriate.

e. Applying skills in new places:  Often skills learned in one setting are not applied to others.  If a child learns to say, "Milk, please" in speech class, but does not use this skill in the cafeteria, then the goal will not be achieved.

f. Physical enhancement: Consider any activities that maximize physical development.

g. Social Contact:  Select a skill that will increase appropriate social interactions.  For example, a child learns to shake hands when s/he meets someone.

h. Expanding horizons / Increasing the number of environments:  Look at the contrast between a child who is picked up at home by mini-bus, goes to school, and as soon as school ends is delivered directly home versus the child who learns about public transportation and a set of socialization skills through participation in after school programs that enable him/her to attend a movie, go to church, or join a cub scout troop.

i. Functionality:  Select skills required for daily living (i.e., learning to load a dishwasher instead of stacking blocks).

Using these dimensions as guides, we can work toward improving the quality of life of students with disabilities.  We can help them to acquire useful and productive skills to enhance independence and work potential, and also to enlarge their circle of friends and expand their opportunities for community interaction.

Adapted from: Dr. Lou Brown et al, The "Why Question" in Education Programs for Students Who Are Severely Intellectually Disabled, University of Wisconsin under a U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education, Division of Innovation and Development Grant, 1985.

 “There is something that is much more scarce, something finer far, something rarer than ability.  It is the ability to recognize ability.”

- E. Hubbard

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A Case For Teaching Functional Skills

A dilemma often results when an attempt is made to translate test items failed at particular levels or mental ages into actual tasks to be taught.  These evaluation tools were never intended to be used in this manner, and the result is that students end up spending most of their school day being taught skills that are totally artificial and/or extremely age-inappropriate.  Given the time it takes students with moderate to severe mental disabilities to acquire even functional skills, there is no justification for devoting instruction to teaching items selected from a developmentally-based hierarchy of supposed "pre-requisite" skills.  A scenario of the outcome for one such student is shown below.  

My Older Brother Daryl

18 years old, Trainable Mentally Retarded.  Been in school 12 years.  Never has been served in any setting other than elementary school.  Had many years of “individualized instruction.”  Learned to do lots of things!

Daryl can now do lots of things he couldn’t do before!  He can put 100 pegs in a board in less than ten minutes while in his seat with 95% accuracy.  But he can’t put quarters in a vending machine.

He can do a 12-piece Big Bird puzzle with 100% accuracy and color the Easter Bunny and stay in the lines!  He prefers music, but was never taught how to use a radio or cassette player.

He can fold primary paper in halves and even quarters.  But he can’t fold his clothes.

He can sort blocks by color, up to 10 different colors!  But he can’t sort clothes for washing.

He can roll Play-Dough into wonderful clay snakes!  But he can’t roll bread dough and cut out biscuits.

He can string beads in alternating colors and make a pattern on a DLM card!  But he can’t lace his shoes.

He can sing the ABC’s and tell me the names of all the letters of the alphabet when presented on a card in upper case with 80% accuracy.  But he can’t tell the men’s room from the ladies’ room at McDonald’s.

He can be told it’s cloudy/rainy and take a black felt cloud and put it on an enlarged calendar (with assistance).  But he still goes out in the rain without a raincoat or hat.

He can identify with 100% accuracy 100 different Peabody Picture Cards by pointing!  But he can’t order a hamburger by gesturing.

He can walk a balance beam front-wards, sideways, and backwards!  But he can’t walk up the steps or bleachers unassisted in the gym to go to a basketball game.

He can count to 100 by rote memory!  But, he doesn’t know how many dollars to pay the waitress for a $2.59 McDonald’s coupon special.

He can put the cube in the box, beside the box, behind the box.  But he can’t find the trash bin in a McDonald’s and empty his trash in it.

He can sit in a circle with appropriate behavior and sing songs and play “Duck, Duck, Goose.”  But nobody else in his neighborhood his age seems to want to do that.

I guess he’s just not ready yet.

Reprinted from December 1987 issue of the TASH Newsletter, by Preston Lewis.

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CRITERIA FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF FUNCTIONAL GOALS IN THE IEP

A functional assessment is an important tool for assessing the skill repertoire and needs of students that primarily consists of interviews and observation.  Following an assessment, an IEP should be developed which includes goals and objectives that reflect functional and chronological age appropriate activities across a variety of integrated environments.  Always include a discussion of the student's strengths (see Positive Student Profile in Appendix C) when discussing assessment results.

Once the assessment process has been completed, a plan is written that consists of goals and objectives that will have desired outcomes for the student and family.  The following criteria need to be considered in setting priorities across skill areas:

1.  Are the goals FUNCTIONAL for the student?

  • Have the goals been developed around the desires of the student?
  • What family needs have been considered when determining these goals?
  • Are the goals being considered chronologically age appropriate?
  • Are these required across a variety of different environments?
  • Can these goals be used often?
  • What is the student's present level of performance of these goals?
  • Does someone have to do it (perform the activity) for the student?

2.  Will the goals result in more opportunities for interaction with non-disabled peers?

  • What goals does the society value?
  • What are non-disabled peers being taught?
  • What are non-disabled peers doing?
  • What goals would reduce non-disabled/disabled discrepancy (social significance of goal)?
  • What goals would lead to less restrictive alternatives?
  • What goals would promote independence?

3.  What are the GOAL characteristics?

  • What are the skills involved in this goal?
  • What are the skills needed and enhanced by this goal?
  • What skills can be integrated across goals?
  • What goals can be recombined into opportunities for more complex skills?
  • What goals will meet the largest variety of the student's needs?
  • What goals will provide opportunities for practice (in appropriate environments)?

4.  How will the goals be taught?

  • What goals will make maximal use of the student's learning strength and style?
  • What is the student's learning rate?
  • How well is the student able to tolerate change, confusion, chaos, etc.?
  • How well is the student able to generalize?
  • How well is the student able to respond to natural and instructional cues and consequences?
  • Where does the student have difficulty in a given sequence or activity?
  • What patterns emerge across environments, materials, cues, persons, etc., when the student has difficulty?
  • Is the student's communication understood across persons and environments?

5.  Where should the goals be taught?

  • Are the environments chronologically age appropriate?
  • Are the environments accessible (i.e., community) for teaching during school hours?
  • Are the environments preferred by the student?
  • Are the environments frequently used by the student, non-disabled peers, and his family?
  • Are there opportunities to teach many goals in these environments?
  • Is there a high probability that the student will acquire the goals needed to function in these environments?
  • Are the environments appropriate for the student now (currently) and in the future (subsequently)?
  • Are the environments safe for the student and/or will the student likely acquire the safety skills necessary to participate in the goals within the environment?

Throughout meetings with the student, parents, family members, educators, child study team, and other pertinent and interested parties, discussion must be centered around prioritizing goals established as a result of completed assessments.  In developing the goals, the question to continually ask is, "Are these goals and activities relevant beyond the student's school years?"

Adapted from Falvey, M.A. Community Based Curriculum: Instructional Strategies for Students with Severe Handicaps, Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co. (1989)

 

Yonina Cohen, age 7  

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Other Important Considerations

Following are some important areas for discussion.  Some of these may be incorporated as goals or activities in the IEP.  Not all items will be relevant to all students and some students may have needs not reflected here.

1. Parent Roles in Implementing the Plan:  Parents should be given sufficient notice to attend meetings.

2. Home/School Communication:  A communication notebook may be used between the parent and the teacher(s).

3. Physical Education:  Are accommodations needed in gym or is adaptive physical education needed?

4. Enrichment Classes and/or Electives:  Can all students enroll in elective courses?

5. Extracurricular and Leisure Activities:  Are there after-school activities that may be appropriate?

6. Social Skills:  Are there opportunities for interaction with peers in non-academic environments?

7. Behavioral Skills:  Will a positive behavior plan be necessary?

8. Vocational Skills:  Does the student have an opportunity for job sampling?

9. Counseling:  Would the student benefit from counseling by the school psychologist or guidance counselor?

10. Medication:  Does the school nurse need to administer medication during the day?

11. Fire Safety:  Have provisions been made for students in wheelchairs?

12. Field Trips:  Will medication need to be administered on the trip?  If so, who will be responsible for this?  (NOT the parent!)

13. Transportation:  Will a special bus be necessary?  Is a child restraint system required?  Is an aide needed on the bus for safety/health issues?

14. Accessibility:  Is the entire building accessible?

Remember:  IDEA requires that children with disabilities be provided the opportunity to participate in all aspects of the school's program, including non-academic and extra-curricular activities, with supports and accommodations if needed.

“Within our dreams and aspirations we find our opportunities.”

-Sue Atchley Ebaugh

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STEP 8:  IDENTIFICATION OF SUPPORTS AND SERVICES

Once the team has determined the goals and objectives, they are ready to make recommendations concerning services, supports, accommodations and modifications.

Analyze each classroom option available and determine which is appropriate.  Choices to be considered should be in the least restrictive environment and age-appropriate.  Other factors to consider are location, class size, instructional strategies, teaching styles, and materials used.

For those students who are already in a general education classroom and it is determined that it is still the least restrictive environment, then the supports and services that are necessary need to be determined.

Once the placement has been determined the next important step is developing a schedule of activities which describe in detail: needed adaptations, materials, location of services, people responsible for providing those services, and any other resources needed.  (See IEP Goal/Activity Matrix and Classroom Activity Analysis Worksheet in Appendix C.)

Determine which activities may be needed to prepare for the student's arrival to the new placement (i.e., a visit to the new classroom by the student).  In addition, any special instructions that may be needed to prepare the student for placement should begin (i.e., a student going into Junior High will need to know how to operate a locker).  Advance preparation should be made to acquire the resources that have been determined to be necessary (i.e., hiring an instructional aide, or developing a peer tutoring system).  If technical assistance is needed the team must decide who will provide it, exactly how it will be implemented and how often it will be provided.

The team should develop a system for parent/teacher communication.  Determine who will be responsible for communication (i.e., teacher, instructional aide, case manager) to be the primary contact person.  Parents' input should be encouraged and seriously considered throughout the planning process.  Parents should never be denied their rights to have high expectations for their son or daughter.  

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Program / Placement

Placement should be determined after IEP goals and services have been designed.  We suggest, however, that parents visit all appropriate programs as soon as possible after evaluations have been completed.  These are described in subchapter 4 of N.J.A.C. 6A:14.  Use the Classroom Observation Checklist in Appendix E to guide your assessment of each program you visit.

"Teachers who believe in students' abilities actually create an atmosphere in which it becomes easier to succeed."  

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Program Options

These program options reflect new changes in the New Jersey Administrative Code.  A full continuum of alternative placements shall be available to meet the needs of pupils with disabilities for special education and/or related services.  These options include the following:

1. Regular class with supplementary aids and services including, but not limited to, the following:

a. Curricular or instructional modifications or specialized instructional strategies;  
b. Supplementary instruction;  
c. Assistive technology devices and services as defined in N.J.A.C. 6A:14-1.3.  
d. Teacher aides; and  
e. Related services.

2. Resource programs;

3. A special class program in the student's local school district;

4. A special education program in another local school district;

5. A special education program in a vocational and technical school;

6. A special education program in the following settings:

a. A county special services school district;  
b. An educational services commission; and  
c. A jointure commission;

7. A New Jersey approved private school for the disabled or an out-of-state school for the disabled in the continental United States approved by the department of education in the state where the school is located;

8. A program operated by a department of New Jersey State government;

9. Community rehabilitation programs;

10. Programs in hospitals, convalescent centers or other medical institutions;

11. Individual instruction at home or in other appropriate facilities, with the prior written approval of the Department of Education through its county office;

12. An accredited nonpublic school which is not specifically approved for the education of students with disabilities according to N.J.A.C. 6A:14-6.5;

13. Instruction in other appropriate settings according to N.J.A.C. 6A:14-1.1(d); and

14. An early intervention program (which is under contract with the Department of Health and Senior Services) in which the child has been enrolled for the balance of the school year in which the child turns age three.  

“Special Education is a service, not a place.”

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Resource Centers

The term "resource room" has been amended to "resource center" to reflect the more flexible program options now available.  Resource center programs offer individual and small group instruction.  Pupils may receive either support or replacement resource center instruction in either in a general education classroom or a separate room.  The resource center teacher shall hold certification as "teacher of the handicapped."

The amount of time a pupil may receive resource center instruction has been expanded to include up to the pupil's entire day for replacement or support instruction in the general education classroom, and up to one-half of the pupil's instructional day in a separate resource center.

In-class support:

This is a program of instruction where the general and special education teachers are collaboratively involved in planning and implementing special strategies, techniques, methods, and materials to address learning problems of pupils with educational disabilities engaged in the general education classroom lesson.  Instructional responsibility for the pupil shall be shared between the general education class teacher(s) and the resource center teacher as described in the pupil's IEP.  Support instruction provided in the pupil's general education class shall be at the same time and in the same activities as the rest of the class.  Students who receive in-class support are classified and enrolled on a general education class register.

In-class replacement:

The intent of in-class replacement service is such that the subject being taught which is being replaced should be appropriate to the child's needs but also be aligned and related to the subject being taught in the general education classroom.  A pupil receiving in-class instruction shall be included in activities such as group discussion, special projects, field trips, and other regular class activities as deemed appropriate in the pupil's IEP.

“Limited expectations yield only limited results.”

- Susan Laurson Willig

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Chart:  NJ State Special Education Code Class Types And Sizes

NJ State Special Education Code Class Types and Sizes

New Name

Old Name

Preschool / Elementary Secondary
   

No Aide

Aide

No Aide

Aide

Support 
In-class
  6 - 9 -
Pull-Out
Single Subject
  6 7 - 9 9 10 - 12
Multiple Subject   6 7 - 9 9 7 - 9
Replacement
In-Class
  3 - 3 -
Pull-Out
Single Subject
  6 7 - 9 9 10 - 12
Multiple Subject   4 - 4 -
Combined Support/ Replacement In-Class   3   Not applicable in HS
Team Teaching In-Class Resource Program
(full-time general and special educators)
  Maximum of 8 students receiving resource instruction Not applicable in HS
Special Classes      
Auditory Impairments Auditorily Handicapped 8 9 - 12 8 9 - 12
Autism Autistic 3 4 - 6 3 7 - 9 (2 aides)
Behavioral Disabilities Emotionally Disturbed 9 10 - 12 10 - 12
Cognitive - Mild Mentally Retarded - educable 12 13 - 16 12 13 - 16
Cognitive - Moderate Mentally Retarded - trainable 10 11 - 13 10 11 - 13
Cognitive - Severe Mentally Retarded - day training eligible 3 4 - 6;
7 - 9 with 2 aides
3 4 - 6;
7 - 9 with 2 aides
Learning/ Language 

Mild- Moderate

Communication handicapped; Neurologically or perceptually impaired 10 11 - 16 10 11 - 16
Severe   8 9 - 12 8 9 - 12
Multiple Disabilities Multiply handicapped 8 9 - 12 8 9 - 12
Preschool Disabilities Preschool handicapped - 1 - 8; 
9 - 12 with 2 aides
- -
Visual Impairments Visually handicapped 8 9 - 12 8 9 - 12

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Obtaining Extended School Year Services

Students classified in New Jersey may be entitled to a school program that extends beyond the usual school year.  In order to be eligible for such a program, each child's individual educational needs must be considered.  For a child to receive summer schooling, there must be evidence that the child regresses significantly over the vacation break and that it takes a long time for the child to recoup (relearn) this loss of skills.  If you want to demonstrate that your child needs an extended school year program, ask your child's teacher(s) and therapist(s) to keep careful records of what happens during a vacation period (any school holiday).  In addition, keep your own records.  If you can demonstrate a pattern of significant loss following vacation periods, you can begin to justify the need for a summer program to your child study team.  As you can see, extended school year must be something you begin to prepare for and discuss with the child study team and school personnel early in the school year.  Do not put off planning for extended school year until May or June.

In determining whether extended school year programming is necessary for a child, remember that most students can sustain short breaks without significant losses, and may only have a regression/ recoupment problem when their program is interrupted for a long period of time.  This student may require a year-round continuous program of special education and/or related services designed to maintain his/her level in those skill and behavior areas identified as crucial, if the student is to reach his/her educational goals.

Adapted from PIC REPORT, January 1989, Parent Information Center, Concord, NH 03302.

See Appendix G for the NJ Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) Policy Paper on Extended School Year Services.  

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Least Restrictive Environment Preschool Placements

In the case of a preschooler with disabilities, there may be no comparable option because the district does not operate a preschool program for nondisabled children.  Therefore, it is important to note that for preschoolers with disabilities, placement in a regular preschool program in another district or in a privately operated program in the local community is a less restrictive placement option than the district's self-contained preschool disabled classroom.

To promote preschool placement in the least restrictive environment, a provision was added to the special education code.  According to N.J.A.C. 6A:14-4.3(c), preschoolers with disabilities may be placed in a private early childhood program, if appropriate, to provide the opportunity for education and interaction with nondisabled preschoolers.  The program must be licensed or approved by a governmental agency; the program must be nonsectarian.  The district must assure that the student's IEP can be implemented and any special education or related services must be provided by appropriately certified and/or licensed professionals.  Paraprofessionals may be used to provide services, when appropriate, in accordance with N.J.A.C. 6A:14-3.9(a)4 or N.J.A.C. 6A:14-4.1(e).

The discussion regarding placement for all preschool age students with disabilities must begin with consideration of a regular classroom program with supplementary aids and services.  When the IEP team determines that a regular class placement is needed to provide a free, appropriate public education, all efforts must be taken to locate appropriate regular classroom settings where the student's IEP can be implemented.  

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Related Services

What are "Related Services"?

The term "related services" refers to a variety of supportive educational services that may be provided to students with a disability as part of their special education program.  Providing appropriate related services is a very important part of a "free appropriate public education."  A full range of services is available to students who are classified, at no cost to their parents, based on educational need.  It is important to note that the IEP should address the full educational performance of a student, including both academic and non-academic (daily life activities, mobility, etc.) areas.

How is eligibility for related services determined?

Nearly any child could "benefit" from speech and language therapy or from the services of a social worker.  The key to whether or not a child is considered eligible for a related service is found in IDEA.  Schools must provide those related services that "are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education."  In other words, the related service must be necessary in order for the child to learn and participate in his or her school program.  No limit can be put on the number of related services a child receives, provided they are all necessary.  Likewise, the amount of time the service is offered must be sufficient for the child to get the help he or she needs.

Related services are listed in the IEP, including the amount of time per week the child will receive each service and the expected length of time the service will be required.  The types of related services your child may receive are determined by his/her specific educational needs and are recommended by the IEP Team, which includes the parent, based on their evaluation of your child.  A district may not have a policy or practice that every child who needs a particular related service gets it in a predetermined group size for a predetermined number of minutes and sessions each week.  This must be determined individually.

See Appendix G for the NJ Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) Policy Paper on Related Services.

Our teaching must be for learning today, tomorrow, and to enrich life.  And the mission of enriching life allows us to teach the whole child - and make learning for today and tomorrow meaningful.

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What are the basic types of related services?

Thirteen related services are listed in IDEA, but other services may be offered if they are required for the child to benefit from his or her special education program.

1. Audiology: Identifying and diagnosing children with hearing loss, and determining what measures need to be taken to help (such as hearing aids, auditory training, consulting with parents and teachers, etc.).

2. Counseling Services:  Services provided by qualified personnel such as social workers, psychologists and guidance counselors to help a student with problems in school or in planning for the future.

3. Early Identification: Each special education agency must implement a formal plan to find children with disabilities as early as possible, usually through a pre-school screening program.

4. Medical Services: Services provided by a physician to determine the nature of the child's disability and its implications for his or her special education program.

5. Occupational Therapy: Services to help children develop fine motor coordination and daily living skills necessary to their success in school and the community.

6. Physical Therapy:  Services to help with the child's gross/total body movements, muscle tone and coordination and balance and equilibrium as he or she progresses through the developmental sequence.

7. Parent Counseling and Training: Services to help parents understand their child's special needs and what they can expect of him in relation to normal child development.

8. Psychological Services: Services which include conducting assessments, making interpretations and recommendations based on those assessments, working with students individually or in small groups, and providing consultation to teachers, other school personnel, and parents.

9. Recreation: Services that include evaluating the student's functioning during his or her leisure time and providing therapeutic recreation programs either in school or through community agencies.

10. School Health Services: Services provided by the School Nurse which may include vision and hearing screenings and maintenance of current medical records on all students.

11. Social Work Services: Services that help teachers and parents to locate appropriate community resources and to implement effective educational programs for students.

12. Speech Pathology:  Services concerned with identification and diagnosis of students with speech and language difficulties and with providing therapy to the student and consultation to school personnel to remediate those difficulties.

13. Transportation: Services which include providing travel from home to school including any specialized equipment necessary to transport each child safely (such as adapted buses, lifts, and ramps).

14. Assistive Technology: Any devices or services necessary for a child to benefit from special education and related services, or to enable the child to be educated in the least restrictive environment.

15. Travel Training:  Training people with disabilities to use public transportation safely and independently given the issues that arise with specific disabilities such as physical, cognitive, and visual impairments.

Adapted from S. Lataen and J. Nye, Parents as Effective Partners, LaGrange Area Department of Special Education, LaGrange, IL, 1986.  

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STEP 9:  IDENTIFICATION OF LEAST RESTRICTIVE ENVIRONMENT

Since 1975, under the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), your child has a right to be educated in the "Least Restrictive Environment" (LRE).  This means your child with a disability has a right to be educated: 

  • With non-disabled peers;
  • In a general education classroom with appropriate supports;
  • In the school your child would attend if he or she did not have a disability; and
  • In a school as close to your home as possible.

The following process is the list of steps you can follow at the IEP meeting to determine whether the least restrictive environment criteria have been met for your child.

STEP 1

Have my child's educational goals and objectives been developed prior to the placement recommendation?  Are the goals clearly stated, and are the objectives measurable?

      right arrow YES:  Proceed to the next step!

      right arrow NO:  This is a violation of IDEA.  The state's LRE policy Memorandum notes: "An appropriate decision making sequence begins with the question of what are the pupils educational needs" (NJ LRE Policy Memorandum, p.3).  Inform team members of this, and state that it is unacceptable, and that you expect clear and measurable goals and objectives for your child before any decision of placement.

STEP 2

Have my child's educational needs (as expressed in the evaluation) been accurately addressed by the proposed educational goals and objectives?

      right arrow YES:  Proceed to the next step!

      right arrow NO:  This is a violation of IDEA.  "There should be a direct relationship between the present levels of educational performance and the other components of the IEP." (Question 36, IDEA Appendix C).  Clarify educational needs.

STEP 3

Have the special education, related services, and assistive technology devices or services my child needs been determined prior to the placement decisions?

      right arrow YES:  Proceed to the next step!

      right arrow NO:  This is a violation of IDEA.  Identify the special education, related services, and assistive technology devices or services your child needs.  Make sure there is a "direct relationship between the present levels of educational performance... and the specific education and related services to be provided." (Question 36, IDEA Appendix C).

STEP 4

Has the general education class with appropriate supports been examined as the first possible placement option?  Has it been examined not as it currently exists, but as it might be modified?

      right arrow YES:  Proceed to the next step!

      right arrow NO:  This is a violation of IDEA.  "Each placement option is examined not only as it currently exists, but as it might be modified.  Regular class placement is examined as the first option...  If the school has given no serious consideration to placing the child in the regular classroom with supplementary aides and services and modifying the regular program to accommodate the child, then the least restrictive environment provision of the IDEA has most likely been violated" (NJ Policy Memorandum, p.3).

STEP 5

Have all possible services and supports, such as speech, occupational, physical, recreational therapies, curricular or instructional modifications, environmental accommodations, training for teachers, or any other supports deemed beneficial been considered to meet the individual needs of my child in the general education classroom?

      right arrow YES:  General education classroom placement must be available as an option.  Proceed to the next step!

      right arrow NO:  This is a violation of IDEA.  Look at all aids and services that exist that can provide support.  Some support, such as assisted technology, teacher aides, or specialized instructional strategies, are listed in N.J.A.C. 6A:14.  In-district resources are not the only resources to be considered.  Plan for your child to be placed in the general education classroom with whatever supports the team can envision to enable the student to succeed.

STEP 6

Have the benefits of the general education class placement, in comparison to a special class, been examined (those to both my child with a disability as well as to the non-disabled children)?

      right arrow YES:  General education classroom placement must be available as an option.  Proceed to the next step!

      right arrow NO:  This is a violation of IDEA.  "...the appropriateness of placement in the regular classroom is not dependent on the pupil's ability to learn the same things that other students learn in the regular classroom.  The benefit from social interaction of the pupil with non-disabled peers is a legitimate benefit that can be derived from placement in the regular classroom...  Two examples of the many beneficial social and academic effects that may accrue to a pupil with disabilities include positive peer models and high expectations for achievement.  The potentially beneficial effects on the other children in the class are fostered as they learn to understand and accept the individual differences of their peers" (NJ LRE Policy Memorandum, p.4).

STEP 7

Unless there is a clear-cut reason why my child's needs cannot be met in the general education classroom with all of the previous considerations taken into account, then my child should be placed in the general education class with supports.  Are the supports being provided?  Are there opportunities for interactions with children without disabilities?

      right arrow YES:  Continue to monitor the program for increased opportunities, especially considering supports that may help increase interaction.

      right arrow NO:  This is a violation of IDEA.  Examination of all areas of the daily school environment should be made to identify opportunities for academic and non-academic interactions, and written into the IEP. (NJ LRE Policy Memorandum, p.4).

Written by the New Jersey Coalition for Inclusive Education, P.O. Box 8226, Turnersville, NJ 08012.  

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STEP 10:  ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA

The classification of students is required by law and should be based on the evaluations of the Child Study Team, the parents and other specialists.  Keep in mind that appropriate services and an appropriate placement are far more important than the label attached!

Services and supports to be provided to a child are in no way restricted according to the classification of the child, i.e., a child who is classified as autistic would not automatically be eligible for more services than a child classified perceptually impaired.  The supports and services to be provided are decided upon the needs of each individual child, not the classification.  

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New Jersey State Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs

CROSSWALK OF ELIGIBILITY CATEGORIES

Under the new code, students are classified as eligible for special education and related services if they meet eligibility criteria for one of the disabilities listed below and defined on the following pages.  Please note the changes in terminology.  

CURRENT TERMINOLOGY

FORMER TERMINOLOGY

Auditorily Impaired 
     
Deafness 
     
Hearing impairment

Auditorily Handicapped

Autistic

Autistic

Cognitively Impaired 
    
Mild cognitive impairment 
    
Moderate cognitive impairment 
    
Severe cognitive impairment

Mentally Retarded 
         
Educable 
         
Trainable 
         
Eligible for day training

Communication Impaired

Communication Handicapped

Emotionally Disturbed

Emotionally Disturbed

Multiply Disabled  
     Multiple disabilities 
    
Deaf-blindness

Multiply Handicapped

Orthopedically Impaired

Orthopedically Handicapped

Other Health Impaired

Chronically Ill

Preschool Disabled

Preschool Handicapped

Social Maladjustment

Socially Maladjusted

Specific Learning Disability

Perceptually Impaired

Traumatic Brain Injury

Neurologically Impaired

Visually Impaired

Visually Impaired

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New Jersey State Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs

CROSSWALK OF ELIGIBILITY CATEGORIES

AUTISM (AUT):  "Autistic" means a pervasive developmental disability that significantly impacts verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction that adversely affects the student's educational performance.  Onset is generally evident before age three.  Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routine, unusual responses to sensory experiences and lack of responsiveness to others.  The term does not apply if the student's adverse educational performance is due to emotional disturbance as defined below.  An assessment by a certified speech-language specialist and an assessment by a physician trained in neurodevelopmental assessment are required.

DEAF-BLINDNESS (DB):  "Multiple disabilities: Deaf-blindness" means concomitant hearing and visual impairments, the combination of which causes such severe communication and other developmental and educational problems that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for students with deafness or students with blindness.

EMOTIONAL DISTURBANCE (ED):  "Emotionally disturbed" means a condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects a student's educational performance due to:

1. An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory or health factors;  
2. An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers;  
3. Inappropriate types of behaviors or feelings under normal circumstances;  
4. A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression; or  
5. A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.

HEARING IMPAIRMENTS (HI):  "Auditorily impaired" corresponds to "auditorily handicapped" and further corresponds to the federal eligibility categories of deafness or hearing impairment.  "Auditorily impaired" means an inability to hear within normal limits due to physical impairment or dysfunction of auditory mechanisms characterized by "deafness" or "hearing impairment" defined below.  An audiological evaluation by a specialist qualified in the field of audiology and a speech and language evaluation by a certified speech-language specialist are required.

1. "Deafness":  The auditory impairment is so severe that the student is impaired in processing linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification and the student's educational performance is adversely affected.  
2. "Hearing impairment":  An impairment in hearing, whether permanent or fluctuating, which adversely affects the student's educational performance.

MULTIPLE DISABILITIES (MD):  "Multiply disabled" (excluding deaf-blindness) corresponds to "multiply handicapped" and means the presence of two or more educationally disabling conditions.  Eligibility for speech-language services as defined in this section shall not be one of the disabling conditions for classification based on the definition of "multiply disabled."  "Multiply disabled" is characterized as concomitant impairments, the combination of which causes such severe educational problems that programs designed for the separate disabling conditions will not meet the student's educational needs.

MENTAL RETARDATION (MR):  "Cognitively impaired" corresponds to "mentally retarded" and means a disability that is characterized by significantly below average general cognitive functioning existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior; manifested during the developmental period that adversely affects a student's educational performance and is characterized by one of the following:

1. MILD COGNITIVE IMPAIRMENT:  "Mild cognitive impairment" corresponds to "educable" and means levels of cognitive development and adaptive behavior in home, school and community settings that are mildly below age expectations with respect to all of the following:

a. The quality and rate of learning;  
b. The use of symbols for interpretation of information and solution of problems; and  
c. Performance on an individually administered test of intelligence that falls within a range of two to three standard deviations below the mean.

2. MODERATE COGNITIVE IMPAIRMENT:  "Moderate cognitive impairment" corresponds to "trainable" and means a level of cognitive development and adaptive behavior that is moderately below age expectations with respect to the following:

a. The ability to use symbols in the solution of problems of low complexity;  
b. The ability to function socially without direct and close supervision in home, school and community settings; and  
c. Performance on an individually administered test of intelligence that falls three standard deviations or more below the mean.

3. SEVERE COGNITIVE IMPAIRMENT:  "Severe cognitive impairment" corresponds to "eligible for day training" and means a level functioning severely below age expectations whereby in a consistent basis the student is incapable of giving evidence of understanding and responding in a positive manner to simple directions expressed in the child's primary mode of communication and cannot in some manner express basic wants and needs.

OTHER HEALTH IMPAIRMENTS (OHI):  "Other health impaired" corresponds to "chronically ill" and means a disability characterized by having limited strength, vitality or alertness, due to chronic or acute health problems, such as a heart condition, tuberculosis, rheumatic fever, nephritis, asthma, sickle cell anemia, hemophilia, epilepsy, lead poisoning, leukemia, diabetes or any other medical condition, such Tourette syndrome, that adversely affects a student's educational performance.  A medical assessment documenting the health problem is required.

ORTHOPEDIC IMPAIRMENTS (OI):  "Orthopedically impaired" corresponds to "orthopedically handicapped" and means a disability characterized by a severe orthopedic impairment that adversely affects the student's educational performance.  The term includes malformation, malfunction or loss of bones, muscle or tissue.  A medical assessment documenting the orthopedic condition is required.

PRESCHOOL DISABLED (PRE):  "Preschool disabled" corresponds to "preschool handicapped" and means an identified disabling condition and/or a measurable developmental impairment which occurs in children between the ages of 3 and 5 years and require special education and related services.  The federal definition includes all pupils age 3 to 5 who are eligible for special education and related services.

SPECIFIC LEARNING DISABILITIES (SLD):  "Specific learning disability" corresponds to "perceptually impaired" and means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations.

1. It is characterized by a severe discrepancy between the student's current achievement and intellectual ability in one or more of the following areas:

a. Basic reading skills;  
b. Reading comprehension;  
c. Oral expression;  
d. Listening comprehension;  
e. Mathematical computation;  
f. Mathematical reasoning; and  
g. Written expression.

2. The term does not apply to students who have learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, general cognitive deficits, emotional disturbance or environmental, cultural or economic disadvantage.

3. The district shall adopt procedures that utilize a statistical formula and criteria for determining severe discrepancy.  Evaluation shall include assessment of current academic achievement and intellectual ability.

SPEECH-LANGUAGE IMPAIRMENTS:  Divided into two categories as follows:

LANGUAGE IMPAIRED (LI):  "Language impaired" corresponds to "communication handicapped" and means a language disorder in the areas of morphology, syntax, semantics and/or pragmatics/discourse that adversely affects a student's educational performance and is not due primarily to an auditory impairment.  The problem shall be demonstrated through functional assessment of language in other than a testing situation and performance below 1.5 standard deviations, or the 10th percentile on at least two standardized oral language tests, where such tests are appropriate.  When the area of suspected disability is language, an evaluation by a certified speech-language specialist is required.  The speech-language specialist shall be considered a child study team member.

SPEECH (SP):  A speech disorder in articulation, phonology, fluency, voice, or any combination, unrelated to dialect, cultural differences or the influence of a foreign language, which adversely affects a student's educational performance; and/or a language disorder that meets the criteria for language impaired and the student requires speech-language services only.

TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI):  "Traumatic brain injury" corresponds to "neurologically impaired" and means an acquired injury to the brain caused by an external physical force or insult to the brain, resulting in total or partial functional disability or psychosocial impairment, or both.  The term applies to open or closed head injuries resulting in impairments in one or more areas, such as cognition; language; memory; attention; reasoning; abstract thinking; judgment; problem-solving; sensory, perceptual and motor abilities; psychosocial behavior; physical functions; information-processing; and speech.

VISUAL IMPAIRMENTS (VI):  "Visually impaired" corresponds to "visually handicapped" and means an impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects the student's educational performance.  The term includes both partial sight and blindness.  An assessment by a specialist qualified to determine visual disability is required.  Students with visual impairments shall be reported to the Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired.  

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STEP 11:  PROVISION OF ONGOING SUPPORT AND MONITORING

Planning does not stop when the student is placed.  The team is an ongoing resource to be used throughout the school year.  A schedule of follow up meetings should be determined; the number may depend on the need for it, allowing for "emergency" meetings scheduled when required.  Monitoring should be done to observe how the existing program is going and to determine if existing supports are adequate, or which need to be altered, added, or eliminated.  

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Monitoring Your Child's IEP

After the IEP meeting and the IEP has been developed and implemented, your involvement continues to be important.  Keeping track of your child's individual program, making sure that it is working as planned and agreed upon is a team effort, with parents as equal partners.  The IEP is a "living" document that can always be revised as necessary.  Parents need to monitor its growth and development.  View monitoring also as your providing follow-along support.

Monitoring responsibilities are designated in the IEP.  Though Child Study Team members and teacher(s) have a mandate to monitor progress, the parents have an important role in seeing that the program is implemented as written.

A variety of monitoring and evaluation techniques are used, including standardized tests, teacher-made tests, and systematic observation of the student to document encouraged behaviors (i.e., how often a child initiates conversation with peers).  The monitoring and evaluation tools utilized should match the goals and objectives.  For example, a paper-and-pencil test could not be used to monitor the student's interaction with his peers.  Take steps to monitor your child's educational plan:

1. Have current copies of the IEP, New Jersey Administrative Code 6A:14, medical reports, local school policies and procedures, important phone numbers, etc. in a file at home.

2. Personally meet the teachers/therapists/other professionals who work with your child.

3. Are the services being given as specified?

  • Observe in the classroom
  • Ask your child how school is going and what s/he did that day
  • Offer materials to help in class

4. Develop a monitoring plan:

  • Attend teacher conferences
  • Monitor phone contacts
  • Become a school volunteer  
  • Discuss school at home
  • Review homework
  • Network with other parents and school personnel

5. Maintain a notebook between you and the professionals, so you can follow through on activities, share notes and information on your child, and track progress at home.

6. Keep a log of your personal observations about your child at home, in school, in the community.

7. Save your child's written work (samples of school assignments, tests, etc.).

8. Think about your child's progress, or lack of it, and act to make any changes or revisions.

9. How often will progress be measured - daily, weekly, monthly?

10. Is the classroom setting still appropriate according to your child's age and skills?

11. Are there other programs and services that could benefit your child?

12. Involve yourself in local programs and information groups to increase your knowledge of available programs or techniques (local ARC, Learning Disabilities Association, United Cerebral Palsy Association).  

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Annual Reviews

The annual review is a meeting to develop, review and/or revise a student's educational program.  Although Individualized Education Programs can be reviewed and revised at any time throughout the year, most IEPs in New Jersey are reviewed annually in the spring.  Before your IEP/annual review meeting, it is necessary to prepare so you can participate on an equal basis with all other participants.  Keep in mind that you are the expert regarding your child.

Who?  The Case Manager of the Child Study Team, parent(s), general and special education teacher(s), and pupil, if appropriate, and other individuals at the discretion of the parents and district board of education.

What?  The purpose of the annual review meeting is to review and revise the IEP and to determine the appropriate services.  Also, participants make recommendations for the next year's program based on progress made in reaching the goals and objectives stated in the former IEP and on the child's current needs.  If you are concerned that your child is not making anticipated progress, you can ask for a meeting with the Child Study Team at any time during the year.  The U.S. Supreme Court determined in the Rowley case that a child is entitled to FAPE - a Free Appropriate Public Education - and be given the opportunity to make sufficient progress to move from grade to grade with their non-disabled peers.

When?  At least annually and also under specific situations:

  • By June 30 of a child's last year in a preschool program;
  • By June 30 of a student's last year in elementary school and includes input from the staff of the secondary school;
  • During a 21-year old student's last year in an educational program and includes input from parents, the case manager, the pupil, if appropriate, and other individuals as appropriate to develop non-binding written recommendations concerning services and resources available in the community.

Remember:  In addition to annual review, you should receive ongoing reports at least as often as report cards for non-disabled peers, reflecting progress in the Core Curriculum Content Standards and toward annual goals and objectives.  

ADVOCACY TIPS FOR ANNUAL REVIEWS

1.    Review the information in this entire chapter of the Basic Rights Manual.  
2.    All of the advocacy tips for each step in the special education delivery cycle apply to preparation for annual review.  Be sure especially to review the IEP Checklist and Advocacy Tips for Preparing for and Participating in the IEP.  

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Three-Year Reevaluation

A reevaluation to determine the status of the student is conducted at least every three years or sooner if needed.  This can include the use of formal assessments and/or a review of existing evaluation data to determine if there is continued need for special education services.  At this time the student will be assessed once again to determine if his/her needs, abilities and/or learning difficulties have changed.  If there is reason to believe a full reevaluation is necessary prior to the three-year mark (child has made substantial gains or is not making satisfactory progress), it may be requested by the parents or the child study team.

The parent and Child Study Team design an evaluation plan as described in the previous evaluation section.

At least two Child Study Team members carry out evaluation procedures.  For students with auditory disabilities, an audiologic and speech and language assessment must also be conducted.  The reevaluation procedure follows the same guidelines as those for initial evaluations (N.J.A.C. 6A:14-3.4(d) 1-6, which includes functional assessments).

Parents participate in the writing of the evaluation plan.

ADVOCACY TIPS FOR THREE-YEAR REEVALUATION

1. Parent consent is required unless (a) the parent doesn't respond to a written notice of intent to conduct reevaluation, or (b) the district requests and prevails at an impartial hearing.  
2.  Be sure that your evaluation questions are incorporated in the evaluation plan.  
3.       Reevaluations must be conducted when a change in eligibility, classification or significant change in placement is being considered.  
4.  Review advocacy tips in Evaluation and Obtaining an Independent Evaluation earlier in this chapter.

Madison Brown, age 4  

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HOW PARENTS PARTICIPATE AS COLLABORATIVE TEAM MEMBERS

Preparing For The IEP Meeting

Following is a list of important steps to prepare for your IEP meeting:

1. Gather and review information and records:

a. Copies of your child's IEP and school records, including:

  • Permanent or cumulative records (usually kept in the principal's office) of grades, attendance, disciplinary actions, standardized test scores and teacher's comments.
  • Health records including immunization history, results of hearing tests, or any other medical tests given to your child.
  • Temporary guidance records, or "anecdotal" files recording your child's daily behavior.  These files (found in the guidance office) are not kept for every child.
  • Teachers' and guidance counselors' private notes for their own use and their personal property.  As long as they do not share them with anyone else and do not place them in your child's records, they are not required to disclose them to you.

b. Schoolwork, notes from teachers, personal observations of your child, and periodic progress reports.

c. Any educational and medical records and other information gathered outside school.

2. Review the core curriculum for the grade your child is in.  This will inform you of the material which will be covered for the school year in the general education classroom.  You can obtain this from your school or the Board of Education office.

3. Know your legal rights.  Have a copy of New Jersey Administrative Code 6A:14 (rules regarding special education) and the Code of Federal Regulations (34 C.F.R.), and highlight those areas in the code that relate to your child.

4. Complete the IEP checklist to be sure you have all necessary elements and considerations.

5. List any significant changes such as operations, medication changes, changes in the family, etc., which may be important to note.

6. Complete the Positive Student Profile and IEP Goals-At-A-Glance in Appendix C.  If possible, send a copy of each to the Child Study Team two weeks prior to the IEP meeting.

7. List the related services your child needs to meet his/her goals (extended school year, transportation, therapies, etc.).

8. Think about what problems your child is having with the current program.  Ask yourself:  For any goals and objectives not met, why were they not accomplished?  How can the program be modified to help my child accomplish these goals?  Are these goals and objectives important enough to warrant working on them for another year?

a. Change of strategies  
b. Change in method of teaching  
c. Increase or decrease difficulty of methods

9. List any services your child needs but is not receiving.

10. Make a list of the questions you want answered and concerns you would like addressed.

11. Share your feelings, thoughts and concerns with other family members, friends or advocates to help clarify your thinking.

12. If you are bringing someone other than your spouse, notify your case manager.

13. Observe all class and program options that might be possibilities for your child.  (Use the Classroom Observation Checklist in Appendix E)

ADVOCACY TIPS IN PREPARING FOR THE IEP MEETING

1.    Decide if you need more information:  Do you know your child's present level of performance? Have you received progress reports?  Are you aware of testing that may need to be done?  Is it time for a three-year reevaluation?

2.    Get answers to your questions.  Observe your child in the present program or visit some of the classrooms that will be available next year.  If possible, visit the classroom more than once at different times in the day.   Meet with teachers and other staff to find out what they think about the child's needs and the types of appropriate programs.  (Do not limit your options to programs that are currently available.)  Read your child's records.

3.    Find out who will attend the IEP meeting.  Make plans for your own support.  When you are notified of the meeting time and place, ask who else has been invited to attend, and if you believe someone providing services to your child has not been included in the meeting and should be, ask that they be invited.  Ask if a draft IEP has been developed.  If it has, then request a copy prior to the meeting.  It would be helpful to invite someone for moral support, to take notes for you, or to present additional information, such as a friend, family member or minister/priest/rabbi.*  Let the school know whom you are asking to come with you.

4.    Make sure enough time has been scheduled for the meeting.  Ask how much time has been scheduled for the meeting.  If you feel the time scheduled for the IEP meeting is too short, ask to meet at another time or begin work with everyone agreeing to a future meeting should every issue not be discussed.  Make sure you have enough time to ask questions and share your opinions.

5.    Be ready to support your ideas and requests.  Find information in the records, progress reports, evaluation results and elsewhere to support your ideas or requests.  Know WHY you are making requests or suggestions.  Have a "back-up" plan or suggestions that can be part of "give and take" to negotiate with school staff.

6.    Plan for the meeting.

      a)       ORGANIZE your materials.  (Reports, letters, etc.) 
     
b)       WRITE DOWN your questions. 
     
c)       KNOW what you want to say. 
     
d)       REVIEW Assertive Communication Skills.
     
e)       PRACTICE communicating assertively.

7.    Be positive.  Assume that you and school system personnel can work together to develop an appropriate program for your child.  Get anger and frustration out before the meeting.  

* In general, SPAN does not have the capacity to provide an advocate to attend this meeting with you.  However, in certain limited situations, SPAN staff or a volunteer SPAN Resource Parent may be able to attend.  

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Active Participation In The IEP Meeting

Once the parent and Child Study Team have identified a meeting date and time, the parent must be given written notice of the meeting, including date, time, place, purpose, and participants.  IEP meetings must be scheduled at a mutually agreed upon time and place.  A translator must be available to parents with hearing impairment or for whom English is not the primary language.  Be sure you have done all your homework before the day of your actual IEP meeting.  You, the parent, have the responsibility to attend and participate in the meeting.

Following are some reminders:

1. Think of yourself as part of a team.  You are an expert regarding your child.  
2. Commit yourself to working together.  You are in it for the long run!  
3. You are a member of the team.  Present yourself as "team able."  Think about what makes you comfortable with others (interpersonal dynamics).  
4. Make sure you have all your notes with you along with a copy of your child's records and a copy of N.J.A.C. 6A:14 for reference, if necessary.  
5. If you are unclear as to whom your case manager is, find out at this meeting.  Also, clarify each participant's role and feel free to address questions or concerns to the appropriate person.  
6. Have any questions or concerns written down and check them off as they are answered so you can ensure that all your concerns are addressed.  Prioritize and address the issues that are most important to you.  Discuss one issue at a time.  
7. Have your goals clearly in mind and on paper so you can see how well they fit in with the goals proposed by the rest of the team.  If at all possible, obtain a copy of the draft IEP, if there is one, before the meeting.  Make sure you review it thoroughly and highlight any areas of concern.  View the document as a draft until your input is included.  
8. Share your concerns and information as the discussion progresses.  Share relevant information about your child by contributing what you know about your child's skills, interests, weaknesses, and strengths.  
9. Be creative, open-minded, and be prepared to negotiate.  There may be alternative ways to meet goals.  
10. Do not hesitate to ask participants to clarify any information or statements that are unclear to you.  If you do not understand the meaning of an educational term, ask for an example or demonstration of what is meant.  
11. You can tape record the meeting, but because this may be intimidating to other team members, you may want to reserve this strategy only if there has been repeated breaking of promises.  It is best to advise your district in advance that you will be tape recording the meeting.  
12. If you feel you did not have enough time to discuss all of the important issues, feel free to ask when you can meet again to continue the discussion.  
13. Thank team members for their input and participation.

ADVOCACY TIPS FOR PARTICIPATING IN THE IEP MEETING

1.      Participate in all meetings regarding your child to demonstrate your desire to be an active participant on the team.

2.    Follow up on timelines to ensure the IEP is completed on time.

3.    Take notes about decisions made, activities for follow-up and timelines.

4.    Bring a friend, relative or advocate to the meeting.

5.    Take time to review fully the final draft of the IEP before signing off on it.  Before you sign the proposed IEP, take it home and highlight any questions or concerns so you can later get clarification from the team and can feel comfortable that the IEP is meeting your child's needs.  Remember, the only time your signature is required is for the first IEP that is developed for your child.

6.    Where appropriate, have the student participate in the meeting.

7.    View any document presented at the beginning of the IEP meeting as a "working" document as opposed to a final IEP.  Do not accept a document that has been fully developed prior to the meeting without your consideration or input.

8.    Know who in your school district is responsible for decision making regarding related services (for example, the Director of Special/Pupil Services, Assistant Superintendent, etc.).  Important: the district can determine which specific staff member will serve as the district representative.  However, the representative should be able to ensure that whatever services are set out in the IEP will actually be provided and that the IEP will not be vetoed at a higher administrative level within the agency.  Thus, the person selected should have the authority to commit agency resources (i.e., to make decisions about the specific special education and related services that the agency will provide to a particular child.  (34 C.F.R. Appendix C, question 13.)  These decisions must be made at the IEP meeting.

9.      Remember that the IEP can always be revised at any time during the school year, should you think changes are required.  You should ask your case manager for a meeting to discuss the changes.

10.   Always follow up any requests in writing.

“It is common sense to take a method and try it. 

If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. 

But above all, try something.”

- Franklin D. Roosevelt

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THE IEP DOCUMENT

The Individualized Education Program (IEP) gives parents a "voice" in their child's education.  By working together, parents and professionals develop a program that benefits the child.  Much of the responsibility for your child's education falls on you.  Parents are the experts regarding their child and are equal partners throughout the evaluation and IEP process.  It is up to you to help develop, evaluate and monitor the IEP.

The IEP is also a written plan that addresses your child's special needs and abilities.  It is developed at a meeting of school personnel and you, the parents.  The plan should not be exactly like anyone else's.  Even though other children may have the same disability, all children have unique needs and abilities.

The IEP does not guarantee success.  It does guarantee that the school system must provide the necessary services, programs, equipment, and facilities as listed in the IEP.

The IEP should be:

  • Current
  • Child-centered (based on your child's individual needs)
  • Clear and concise
  • Collaborative (a combined effort)
  • Comprehensive (including both strengths and needs)
  • Accurate
  • Based on age- and grade-appropriate Core Curriculum Content Standards

The IEP must be:

a.   In effect at the beginning if each school year for every child with a disability who is receiving special education from the district;

b. In effect before special education and related services are provided to a child; and

c. Implemented as soon as possible following the meeting.

As your child's advocate, you must participate in the development of the IEP document.  The purpose of this section is to familiarize you with the required elements of the IEP.  Either use it to evaluate your child's current IEP or to assist you in the development of your child's first IEP.

The IEP must include:

a. Any needed specialized equipment or materials  
b. Instructional strategies fitted to the pupil's learning style  
c. Techniques and activities designed to support the personal and social development of the pupil (N.J.A.C. 6A:14-3.6 (xv-xvii))

Often times the current status statement becomes merely a list of the things your child cannot do.  It is your responsibility to ensure that a balanced view of your child is conveyed to people who will work with him/her.  Be sure that your child's strengths and accomplishments are included (See Positive Student Profile in Appendix C).

Remember: you have goals for your child that should be included in the IEP (IDEA requires that the IEP team consider your goals for enhancing your child's education).  For example, some self-help goals may be very important to you such as dressing, grooming, etc.  This can be addressed through your child's educational program (See Goals-At-A-Glance in Appendix C).

  • Goals are annual plans; objectives are the intermediate steps necessary to reach the annual goals.
  • Goals and objectives should be positive, observable, and measurable.
  • Goals and objectives should be written for all aspects of your child's special education program.  Parents should play a major role in the development of goals and objectives.

Time Frame:  Following the development of the IEP, the program should be implemented no more than 30 days after the IEP has been written and within 90 days of your written consent for evaluation.

PARENTAL SIGNATURE

Parental signature is required in order for the local school district to implement an evaluation or a special education program (the IEP):

  • When the child is first referred to the Child Study Team for a formal and complete evaluation and prior to any reevaluation.  The parent must sign that s/he has approved the evaluation plan.
  • Once a child is determined eligible for a special education program and/or related services, the parent must sign the very first IEP in order for the school district to start services for the child as designed in the IEP.  

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Required Components of the IEP

The following checklist contains items often identified by parents and professionals as important components of appropriate educational programs. [(N.J.A.C. 6A:14-3.6(d)), (34 C.F.R. 300.346)]

A.      Statement of Eligibility for Special Education and/or Related Services:  This statement should specify behavior and learning characteristics that warrant special education and/or related services.

B.      Current Educational Status:  This statement summarizes the skills and abilities the student has achieved as well as areas of need.  Areas must include, but are not limited to: academic, achievement, cognitive functioning, personal and social development, and physical and health status.  Other areas which can be included where appropriate are: language proficiency, communication style, physical education and recreation needs, prevocational and self-help needs.

C.    Annual Goals:  Annual goals based on the student's current educational status represent anticipated outcomes that the student can reasonably be expected to achieve in one year's time.  The task of selecting appropriate goals should involve the student, where appropriate, parents, child study team members, teacher(s), and perhaps administrators.

D.      Objectives:  IEP objectives are derived from the annual goals and represent specific, measurable, intermediate steps that should be taken to reach the goals.  Well-defined objectives will provide the team with a measure to determine if the anticipated outcomes have been realized.

E.  Description of Student's Educational Program:  This should include:

1. Is the program in the Least Restrictive Environment (the class and school the child would attend if s/he did not have a disability, or if not, a setting as close as possible to general education setting student would attend if not disabled)?

2. Extent to which student will participate in general education program.

3. Exemptions from general education program options and/or graduation requirements.

4. Accommodations, adaptations and/or exemptions from standardized tests (HSPT, SAT, etc.)

5. Transition Plan: a statement of the needed transition services including, if appropriate, a statement of each public agency's and each participating agency's responsibilities or linkages, or both, before the student leaves the school setting.

6. If transition services are needed, the IEP shall include a statement to this effect and basis upon which that determination was made.

7. Statement and reason for length of time in special education program.

8. Language of instruction if not English.

9. A statement describing the special education and/or related services, including the frequency and duration of services, and the date when they will begin.

10. Defined roles and responsibilities of specific school personnel for implementing the IEP.  (For additional people to know, see "Who's Who in Your Child's Life?" in Appendix E.) 

11. The criteria, procedure and schedule to determine if the pupil's goals and objectives are being met.  This section should include a discussion of the frequency of progress reports and face-to-face meetings to evaluate the student's progress.  We strongly recommend that parents have monthly phone contacts with classroom teacher(s) and quarterly meetings with the case manager and other personnel on the collaborative team.

12. Exemptions from local disciplinary policies and/or procedures.

13. Any specialized equipment or materials.

14. Instructional strategies fitted to the pupil's learning style.

15. Techniques and activities designed to support the pupil's personal and social development.

16. Rationale/reasons for type of educational program and placement.

The planned schedule of time the student will be served by specialists, special education teachers, bilingual or English-as-a-Second Language teachers, general education teachers, and related service personnel is no longer a required element of the IEP.  Be sure to include this information in the student's IEP as additional relevant information (See the IEP Checklist in Appendix D for more information on required components in the IEP).

“The rung of a ladder was never meant to rest upon, but only to hold a man’s foot long enough to enable him to put the other somewhat higher.”

- Aldous Huxley

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT IEPs

The following questions and answers were adapted from Appendix C to Part 300 of the Code of Federal Regulations.  "Public agency" refers to the State Education Agency (State Department of Education), Local Education Agency (district you live in), and any other political subdivisions of the State that are responsible for providing education to children with disabilities. 

Are parents required to sign the IEP?

Parent signatures are not required, except for the first IEP developed for the child.  However, having such signatures is considered by parents, advocates and the public agency personnel to be useful as one way to document whom attended the meeting.  This is useful for monitoring and compliance purposes.

Who can initiate IEP meetings?

IEP meetings are initiated and conducted at the discretion of the public agency, however, if the parents of a child with a disability believe that the child is not progressing satisfactorily or that there is a problem with the child's current IEP, it would be appropriate for the parents to request an IEP meeting.  The public agency should accommodate any reasonable request for such a meeting.

If a child with a disability has been receiving special education in one public agency and moves to another, must the new public agency hold an IEP meeting before the child is placed in a special education program?

It is not necessary if a copy of the child's current IEP is available; the parents indicate that they are satisfied with the current IEP; and the new public agency determines that the current IEP is appropriate and can be implemented as written.  If a current IEP is not available or if the public agency or parent feel it is not appropriate then an IEP meeting must be held within a short time after the child enrolls in the new public agency.  If the public agency or the parents feel additional information is needed or that a new evaluation is necessary before a final placement decision can be made, it would be permissible to place the child in an interim program before the IEP is finalized.

If a child with a disability is enrolled in both general education and special education classes, which teacher should attend the IEP meeting?

Both.  A meeting to develop or review the IEP must include at least one general education teacher and one special education teacher, both knowledgeable about the student's performance or the district's programs.  The child's general education teacher must, to the extent appropriate, participate in the development, review and revision of the child's IEP, including assisting in the determination of appropriate positive behavioral interventions and strategies, supplementary aids and services, and program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided for the child.  The general education teacher need not be physically present at all phases of the IEP process, but must participate in those aspects of the IEP meeting related to the general curriculum and modifications, accommodations, etc. to curriculum or instruction.

Is it permissible for a public agency to have the IEP completed when the IEP meeting begins?

No.  It is not permissible for a public agency to present a completed IEP to parents for their approval before there has been a full discussion with the parents of (1) the child's need for special education and related services, and (2) what services the public agency will provide to the child.  The public agency can have a drafted IEP, but they must make it clear to the parents at the outset of the meeting that the services proposed by them are only recommendations for review and discussion with the parents.  

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What to Include In Your Child's Home File

1. Keep records chronologically with the most recent on top.

2. Each year, list your child's:

Local School Personnel

* Teacher
* School Principal
* Special Education Teacher

Child Study Team

* Case Manager
* Learning Disability Teacher Consultant
* Psychologist
* Social Worker
* Related Service Personnel
(physical, occupational, speech therapist; counselor)

School District Policy Makers

* School District Superintendent
* School Board Members
*Special Education Administrator
* P.T.A. Organization

3. List the chain of command within the school system, beginning with local and ending with state and federal.  Include addresses and telephone numbers for easy reference.

4. A copy of your state's administrative code (N.J.A.C. 6A:14), distributed at no cost by:

a. Your local district, Department of Special Services  
b. The State Department of Education: please call (609) 292-0147 and specify that you are a parent of a child with a disability.

5. A copy of IDEA and its regulations.  You can obtain a copy from your congressperson.  Please ask him/her for a copy and identify yourself as a resource on the abilities and needs of children with disabilities.

6. Copies of all records from your child's school progress reports, psychological reports, and any other papers the school district may have regarding your child.

7. Report cards.

8. Copies of test results and recommendations from independent assessments.

9. All written (including handwritten) letters and notes to and from school personnel.

10. All written communication with outside professionals regarding your child's unique needs.

11. Dated notes on parent/teacher conferences.

12. Dated notes you have taken in conversations with your child's physician or other professionals who see your child.

13. Dated notes on all telephone conversations with school personnel or others regarding your child.

14. Samples of your child's work (written, art, workbook pages, etc.)

15. PRISE (Parental Rights in Special Education) booklet

Adapted from Federation for Children with Special Needs, Boston, MA 02118.

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