You are getting your classroom set up for the new school year and then it appears, an IEP for one of your students. The Individualized Education Plan states what must be done in the classroom to meet the child’s needs.

In the 2018-19 school year 14% of all public school students, a total of 7.1 million students, required special education services. During your teaching career, you will likely have to teach IEP students. 

Whether you are a seasoned pro or a brand new teacher, there are always things to be learned that can help you as a teacher. Here is everything you need to know about requesting and implementing an IEP.

What is an IEP

There are several elements to an Individualized Education Plan. School districts are required by the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to provide a public education to all students between the ages of 3-21 who have a disability.

A child suspected of having special education needs must be evaluated to determine if they meet the criteria specified by IDEA to receive special education. An IEP is required by IDEA for special needs students.

The Individual Education Plan will include academic and social goals for the child. It will also specify what accommodations need to be made to the curriculum so the child can meet those goals. 

IDEA specifies that teachers are the ones responsible for planning and implementing each student’s IEP. They are also required to monitor the student and the effectiveness of the IEP.

IEP Referral and Evaluation

The referral process begins when a doctor, teacher, or parent believes the child may have a disability. That disability needs to impact the child’s ability to learn in school. The school may fight doing an evaluation because special education is more costly than educating the average student. The parent has a legal right to request an evaluation done on their child.

The school may meet with parents, teachers, and staff to see if there are any adjustments that can be made without an evaluation. If any changes do not resolve the problem than a formal evaluation must take place.

The formal evaluation includes professional observation of the student in the educational setting. The student’s total performance is evaluated. This includes attention, behavior, completion of work, tests, and social interactions.

Factors to Determine Need for IEP

There are many factors that can determine a child’s need for an IEP.

* emotional disorders

* physical disabilities

* developmental delay

* learning disabilities

* Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

* autism

* speech or language impairment

* hearing impairment * visual impairment

If you are experiencing problems with a child in your classroom, it may an indication of a learning disability.

Signs of Inability to Learn

There are several signs that a child may be unable to effectively learn in a traditional setting.

* poor grades even if the child is making a significant effort

* unable to remember problem-solving steps

* lacks understanding or logic behind problem-solving steps

* requires continuous step-by-step guidance

* does not remember written or spoken material

* has trouble mastering tasks

* struggles with transferring academic skills learned to other tasks

* cannot recall skills and facts over time

* has a strong general knowledge but is unable to read (dyslexia), do math (dyscalculia), or write (dysgraphia).

* has trouble with language processing and communication

* lacks social skills, unable to interact with other children their age

* they are overtly frustrated by work in the classroom and homework

The evaluation team may include teachers, psychologists or social workers, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, special educators, and a vision or hearing specialist. Once the evaluation team has completed their report, it will be used in developing the first individual education plan for that student.

The First IEP

Parents are invited to take part in all IEP meetings. The first meeting will utilize the evaluation team’s report to create the child’s first IEP. The child’s parents, teachers, and social workers will discuss and establish the best educational plan for the student to succeed.

Factors include how services will impact the student’s school day. Accommodations need to be implemented in a way that does not negatively impact the child’s comfort and dignity. The IEP will list where the child is academically and socially and include goals for the student to work toward.  

The IEP should be reviewed at least annually to update goals and make sure the needs of the student are being met. Continuous monitoring by teaching staff is necessary to make sure the student achieves success. It is important for teachers to understand the IEP process and their role in delivering instruction to students with an IEP.

How to Teach IEP Students

One of the key factors in teaching students with learning disabilities is to think of it as an inclusive process. Provide the opportunity for the student to interact with their peers in a normal classroom setting as often as possible. This can include their participation in subjects such as art, music, gym, library visits, and field trips.

The least restrictive setting for IEP students is in a regular classroom. Seat the IEP student according to their needs in much the same way you assign seating for other students.

You wouldn’t place two “chatter-box” students’ side by side or a daydreamer near the window. Place your IEP student where it will be the most productive learning environment for them.

If the student is unable to learn a subject in the standard classroom, they may need to receive instruction in a support or resource room. This allows the student to be taught by a special education teacher in a small group setting.

If the student’s disabilities are severe, they may need to receive their instruction in a special education setting. This environment has fewer students per teacher. The instructors have special training to assist students with specific special education needs.

Monitoring the Child

Reading the child’s Individualized Educational Plan and monitoring the student’s progress is imperative to their academic success.  Teaching a student with special needs means you are required to:

* Make changes to the general education curriculum to meet the IEP requirements

* Identify specific areas for the child to be included in the standard classroom setting

* Obtain supplementary aids and services to meet the child’s needs

* Determine what is needed to accommodate the child’s needs during academic testing

* Assess whether other areas of special instruction are needed

Reading the IEP and monitoring the child are important but often neglected aspects of teaching a special needs child. A study by Kathleen M. Rotter in 2014 revealed that out of 311 general education teachers and 115 special education teachers that:

* 94% of teachers received their students IEP’s at the beginning of the school Year

* 60% of general education teachers read the IEP within days of receipt

* 68% of special education teachers read the IEP within days of receipt

* 6% of general education teachers and 1% of special education teachers did not read the IEP

The teachers were also asked how often they referred back to the IEP, and 36% of the general education teachers said less than once a month. Forty percent of special education teachers referred to it once a month.

Tracking the Child’s Performance

The study by Rotter asked teachers about their habit of tracking student performance and writing of notes regarding IEP requirements. Out of the general education teachers surveyed, only 38% normally took notes and 31% had some way of summarizing the information. Special education teachers reported only 57% took notes and 50% had a system of summarizing that information.

This raises areas of concern because the most important part of reviewing an IEP is modification and accommodation statements from teachers. Next is reviewing the child’s progress toward obtaining the goals and objectives that were on the IEP. The third most important aspect of the IEP review is the program statement and the child’s current level of academic achievement.

The information contained in the IEP is useful in helping teachers create a lesson plan for the child. Teachers need to place more emphasis on collecting data on a regular basis that can be used in making an accurate judgment on the student’s progress. 

Teachers tend to rely on classroom grades for evaluating student progress. The problem is grades are not reliable for measuring IEP goal achievement.

Teacher notes should include observations on the child’s behavior and social interactions. They should also include any other observations that may have an impact on the child’s learning. 

Improve Efficiency of IEP Planning

Technology improves the ease in which a teacher can provide the best instruction possible to all students. Computer systems provide the opportunity to easily access the IEP. They can also more easily collaborate with all the student’s teachers.

Computers can also ease the collection and reporting of information about the student. This information is important for a successful IEP meeting.

Having access to lesson plans and instructional materials makes teaching all students easier. Learning on what problematic behavior signals a problem with the child’s ability to learn leads to early intervention. Access to an online teacher’s lounge where you can interact with other educational professionals can provide the support needed when trying to meet your student’s IEP requirements. 

Resources Improve Teaching

Having the resources needed means success for every teacher. The Teacher’s Hideaway is a great online resource. You will find lesson plans, instructional materials, a teacher’s only social network, and research-based tutorials on topics essential to teachers such as how to teach IEP. 

Best of all, Teacher’s Hideaway offers a free 21-day trial so you can learn all the benefits of membership without paying a penny. Give Teacher’s Hideaway a try today! 

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