Steps in the IEP Process (page 2)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Apr 30, 2014

Step 3: Identification

Assessment is one foundation of the planning process. The purpose of this step in the IEP process is to determine whether a youngster has a disability, whether special education is required, and what types of services are needed. Evaluations are conducted by multidisciplinary teams made up of professionals who have expertise in each area of concern. Each member helps to evaluate the student's unique strengths and needs. For example, if a language impairment is suspected, an SLP is a member of the team. If there may be a hearing problem, an audiologist participates, and so on. For students who are 16 years old or older, evaluation includes assessments related to the need for transition services.

Information can come from a broad range of sources, including the youngster's parents and family members. The professional who coordinates the identification process varies by state and district. In some states, the assessment team leader is a school psychologist, an educational diagnostician, or a psychometrician. In other states, a teacher from the student's school leads the team's efforts.

At this step, many different types of data are used to inform the team about the student's abilities. Medical history, information about social interactions at school and at home, adaptive behavior in the community, educational performance, and other relevant factors are considered. Evaluations include an array of assessment instruments and procedures. Information should be collected, perhaps from family members, about individuals' major life activities: performance at home, at school, in interpersonal relationships, and during leisure time. Formal tests—tests of intelligence, academic achievement, and acuity (e.g., vision and hearing)—are part of the information used to make decisions about students and their potential special education status. Tests about a student's learning style are often included to help identify accommodations that may be effective to support the individual's successful access to the general education curriculum. Less formal assessments (school observations of social behavior, examples of academic assignments, direct measurements of academic performance, and portfolio samples of classroom performance) are also important pieces of evidence for this step in the IEP process. One result of the evaluation step of the IEP process can be determination that the individual does not have a disability. In these instances, the IEP process is discontinued. For those individuals who do have disabilities, this phase of the process results in a baseline of performance that guides the development of the individualized program plan and later will help evaluate the program's effectiveness.

Step 4: Eligibility

The information from the assessment step is used to identify students who actually have a disability and qualify for special education services. For those students, the IEP committee then determines what components of the full range of special education and related services are needed so that an appropriate education can be planned for and ultimately delivered. The education of those students who do not meet the eligibility requirements remains the responsibility of general educators.

Step 5: Development of the IEP

After thorough completion of the pre-referral, referral, evaluation, and eligibility steps of the IEP process, it is time to develop the actual individualized program plan—an individualized family service plan (IFSP) for infants and toddlers or an IEP for preschoolers and schoolchildren and a transition component of the IEP for those students with disabilities who are 16 years or older. For those students who qualify for special education, the next step requires that parents and the IEP Team make decisions about appropriate education, services, and placement. The assessment results are used to help make these decisions. It is at this point that the IEP Team begins its work to outline the individualized education needed by the student of concern. Collectively, the team members—including parents and the individual (if appropriate)—now use the knowledge they have gained to identify resources needed for that student to access the general education curriculum, determine the appropriate goals for that individual, and then turn all of that knowledge into a good educational program for the student. Of course, goals must reflect having greater success with the general education curriculum or preparing for independence and a community presence later in life. Now is the time when the constellation of services and supports that become part of the student's appropriate education are determined.

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