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A Tutors Guide To An IEP

Apr 7, 2008
It is not uncommon for parents to use education lingo during the initial consultation with a new tutor. One term that seems to come up quite often is the "IEP" or "Individualized Education Program". This article will highlight what a tutor needs to know about the IEP process so that they may better communicate with the parent.

Any child in a public school who receives special education services must have an IEP. Regular education teachers, special education teachers, parents, school administrators, related services personnel such as a speech therapist, and often the students themselves work together to create a document that reflects a student's individual needs and goals. Members of this IEP team discuss their experience with the student, the student's disabilities, strengths, and weaknesses, and decide how the student can be most successful with the general curriculum offered by the school. They also set annual goals for the child and determine how progress toward these goals will be measured and reported.

The nation's special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, requires that certain information is included in the document and has established guidelines that must be followed as the IEP is written. For instance, there is an area of the document in which the team lists all of the ways that the school will service and support the child. If the team decides that a student would benefit from extra time while taking tests, from having a copy of peer or teacher notes, or allowed to use a calculator to check answers, then they must list this on the document. Anything included on the document must then be followed by the teachers and support staff.

If the team decides that certain behaviors interfere with a student's learning, they must discuss positive and effective ways to address the behaviors and record the interventions and/or strategies that they have decided will best help the student learn how to control and manage his behavior in the IEP.

Once a team meets, discusses the student and his needs, and writes an IEP, the child's teachers and service providers are provided with a copy of the IEP and are expected to provide the students with the accommodations, modifications and supports that were listed in the IEP. All people involved with the child are expected to follow the IEP exactly as it was written and provide data as to how the student is progressing toward the annual goal.

The IEP will be reviewed each year by the child's IEP team in order to determine whether progress toward the annual goals has been made, to discuss the effectiveness of specific accommodations and modifications, and to revise the IEP for the following year. IDEA requires that the IEP is reviewed at least once a year. However, the team may review and make changes to the IEP more frequently if they feel the need. Either the parents or the school personnel may decide that a child's IEP should be revisited prior to the annual review and request a meeting.

As a tutor who will be working closely with a student, you may benefit from looking over the IEP to determine what problems the IEP team have identified and what strategies they have decided to employ in order to best assist the student in his education. The parents are given a copy of the IEP at the conclusion of the meeting and may offer to share it with you. If they mention that their child has an IEP but fail to offer to let you see it, you may want to request to review it and explain to the parent that you will be in a much better position to help their child if you could continue the same strategies that the school is using.

For instance, if the IEP states that the student has a problem organizing concepts, and you were made aware of this, then you may choose to have the student create concept maps. If the IEP states that a student has a difficult time completing tests under time constraints, then you may want to focus on test taking strategies. I'm sure if parents are paying you to work with their child, then they will be more than willing to share the IEP along with anything else that may have come out of the discussion with the IEP team with you.
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