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Why and How to Read Your Child’s IEP

Learning to read and to understand your child’s IEP is imperative to the health and well-being of his or her education. The purpose of an IEP is to prepare your child for “further education, employment, and independent living.” A child with an IEP has a right to learn and master grade-level benchmarks in reading, written expression, math, and all academic subjects. The first step toward understanding your child’s IEP is to learn about the contents of this educational document, including special education jargon that will indeed be foreign.

What Are the Contents of an IEP?

The IDEA states that when developing your child’s IEP, the team will consider the strengths of the child as well as the parents’ concerns about any aspect of the child’s academic achievement and functional performance. The body of the IEP contains the following areas which must be addressed by the IEP team – and this includes “you” the parent:

    • The results of evaluations and including district-wide and state assessments.
  • The PLAAFP is the heart, soul, and fidelity of your child’s IEP. It details your child’s disability and how it impacts his or her ability to access and make progress in the general education curriculum. The test of a well-written PLAAFP? A stranger should be able to read it and understand everything about your child’s present levels and educational needs.
    The present level of academic, developmental, and functional needs of your child, commonly referred to as the “PLAAFP” or in some states as the present level of performance, the “PLOP.”
  • Special factors such as positive behavioral interventions, assistive technology devices, and services and communication needs.
  • Measurable and understandable annual goals, including academic and functional goals that will enable your child to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum. Short-term objectives are required if your child takes an alternate assessment aligned to alternate achievement standards.
  • How your child’s progress toward meeting the annual goals will be measured and reported to you.
  • Supplementary aids and services, including the accommodations necessary to measure your child’s progress on state- and district-wide standardized assessments.
  • A transition plan when your child turns 16, or earlier if the IEP team determines there is a need.
  • A statement of the special education and related services, such as speech and language, or direct instruction in research-based reading, written expression, and mathematics and the duration and frequency of these services.
  • An explanation of the extent to which your child will not participate in general education classes and extracurricular activities, also referred to as Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).
  • The need for Extended School Year (ESY) services.
  • The projected date for the implementation of the IEP. Many states have formal timelines for the district to offer FAPE and implement the IEP.

Be smart about your child’s IEP!
  • Always start on page one of your child’s IEP. Don’t let the IEP team skip it. Mistakes happen and incorrect contact information can lead to an IEP invitation being sent to the wrong address, or the school trying to reach you at the wrong phone number.
  • Check your state’s special education rules. Many states require annual goals with short-term objectives for all students with IEPs.
  • Your child’s progress on reading, writing and math goals should be reported no less than every 6 weeks.

  • Don’t minimize the “special factors.” Assistive technology can give your child greater access to grade level reading and written expression. Positive Behavior Supports and Behavior Intervention Plans should be a positive, not punitive, teaching instrument for a child struggling with attention, focus, impulsivity, distractibility, organization, problem-solving, and social skills.
  • Learn how to recognize and write goals and objectives that are measurable, accountable and data-driven. (Check out the Recommended Resources section for this article.)