Working with Families and The Special Education Process and Program Development (page 3)
After the evaluation has been completed and a decision has been made by the interdisciplinary team that the student is eligible for and in need of special education services, an individualized program is developed. Depending on the age of the individual, this may be an IFSP, an IEP, or an individualized transition plan (ITP).
Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP)
Part C of IDEA mandates a written document describing the services to be provided for infants and toddlers with disabilities. This document is known as the IFSP (Bruder, 200). Instead of being focused on educational services for the child as in an individualized education plan (IEP), the IFSP focuses on both the family and the child with a disability. This family-focused document is written to enhance not only the child’s needs but to empower the family in its ability to support itself and the child with the disability.
Individualized Education Plan (IEP)
For students determined to be eligible for special education and related services, an IEP must be developed by a team of individuals who are knowledgeable about the child and about services that the child may need. The IEP team must include the child’s parents and, whenever appropriate, the child.
When developing the IEP, the team must consider the concerns of the parents for enhancing the education of their child and the results of the initial or most recent reevaluation including the strengths of the child. Dabkowski (2004) notes, “the most significant venue for exercising the right to parental participation in decision-making is the IEP meeting”. Although it is not necessary for the team to include in the IEP everything the parent suggests, close attention should be paid to parental requests. As with evaluation information, parents may have unique insights into the needs of their children and into the non-school environment in which they live. The length and context of the parent-child relationship may provide very useful information for the IEP and for the development of long-term goals. Involving family members in the development and implementation of the IEP is a professionally sound practice and can greatly enhance educational opportunities for students with disabilities (Smith et al., 2004). Family members are better able to support their child’s intervention plan if they were involved in developing it (Hutinger, 1996). As participants, parents are more likely to better understand the entire plan and how to implement components of the program at home. The participation of parents gives them an opportunity to become actively involved in their child’s educational program. Strategies schools can use to enhance participation by parents in IEP development are discussed in a later section. Prior to the IEP meeting, ask parents to write goals for their child and then bring them to the meeting. Early in the IEP meeting, ask parents about their goals for the child. This sends the message that you care about their input. When they give you input, make sure you discuss their information or ideas and give them serious consideration.
Individual educational plans should be reviewed periodically, but not less frequently than annually, by the team that includes the parents. In addition to the annual review, parents may request a review of the IEP at any time. Unfortunately, most parents are unaware of this right, or they lack information concerning the child’s program and are hesitant to request such a review. Therefore, when possible, school personnel should periodically ask parents if they are satisfied with the IEP, or discuss with them as to whether they see the need for a formal review. Even though this is not a legal requirement, it indicates to the parents that school personnel are concerned about their input and desire their participation.
Individual Transition Plan (ITP)
Will (1984) notes that parents and professionals have voiced concerns that their children with disabilities were not being successful when they left the school. When reviewing the individualized educational plans that were being developed, it was noted that the IEPs did not identify future goals and were not written to assist the child in the transition from school to work. As a result, in the 1990 reauthorization of IDEA, the concept of transition services was added. Now transition services are to be included in a document known as an individual transition plan (ITP). IDEA 2004 notes that the child’s IEP that is in effect when the child turns 16 years of age, must include the transition goals for the child and services needed to assist the child’s achievement of those goals. This must be updated at least annually when the child’s IEP is updated. Also, beginning no later than 1 year prior to the child reaching majority age, a statement indicating that the child has been informed of his rights and that those rights will be transferred to him when he reaches the age of majority shall be included in the IEP. The parents and the student as members of the team are to be involved in identifying future goals (future planning) and the steps to reach those goals (National Center on Secondary Education and Transition, 2002). This focus on transition planning as the essential goal for the student’s educational career is emphasized in the IDEA amendments of 2004, where it states that the student’s plan is to facilitate children achieving measurable post-secondary goals. Thus, the ITP has a three-fold emphasis to include: (1) plans for future employment, (2) plans for future education after high school, and (3) plans for independent living (National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities, 2003).
By age 16, the focus of what has been known as the IEP moves to address post-school outcomes and becomes the ITP. As a result, the student, as well as the parents, should participate in the process to develop the ITP. Additionally, representatives from other agencies such as vocational rehabilitation, employment services, mental health services, developmental disabilities services, social security, and so on. should be invited to attend the planning meeting because they will be involved with the person as he/she transitions into the community.
Behavior Intervention Plans (BIP)
Parents should also participate in the development of the behavior intervention plan (BIP). IDEA requires schools to develop BIPs for students with disabilities with behavior problems. Behavior intervention plans are developed following a functional behavior assessment by the school, which is an attempt to determine the function of the child’s inappropriate behaviors (Alberto & Troutman, 2003).
Functional assessment, the basis for behavior intervention plans, focuses on trying to understand the interactions between behaviors and events in the environment. From this understanding a behavior intervention plan is developed that specifies actions that attempt to change inappropriate behaviors into appropriate behaviors. Because the core of functional assessment is gathering information to assist in determining relationships, family members are critical in the functional assessment process (Dunlap, Newton, Fox, Benito, & Vaughn, 2001). There appears to be an increasing emphasis on behavior plans that can be implemented in community contexts by family members and other natural intervention agents (Fox, Vaughn, Wyatte, & Dunlap, 2002). With a renewed emphasis on family-focused interventions, including behavioral interventions, close collaboration between schools and family members is very important (Becker-Cottrill, McFarland, & Anderson, 2003).
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