IEPs look different at different ages. As children get older, the focus becomes less academic and more about future/life skills. Here are checklists for some pivotal periods:
- Transition to 3
- Transition to kindergarten (elementary)
- Transition to middle school
- Transition at 14
Most Important Part of IEP
On every IEP, there is a section called Present Levels. The exact name may vary by state and you may see it referred to as PLOP, PLAAFP or something else.
Present Levels is the most important part of an IEP. The Present Levels section is the portion that drives the rest of the IEP. Your child’s Present Levels should be a thorough and accurate description of your child. It should also have all of your child’s baselines.
The data in Present Levels is used to develop goals. It also is used for Progress Monitoring. If an area of need is missing from the Present Levels section, ask for evaluations in that area.
If Present Levels is not sufficient, the rest of the IEP will not be sufficient.
Transition to 3
Early Intervention programs end at age three. Once the child is 3, the local school district assumes responsibility for the special education. Your child’s 0-3 team and local school district can assist you with this transition. Teams will often begin discussing this when the child is 2+ years old.
How to prepare:
- Ask Early Intervention therapists to write an exit evaluation to share with school.
- Contact the school district to request an evaluation for special education. (Your EI case manager can help with this.)
- Request to be evaluated in all areas of need. For example: Academic Information: Achievement vs. Ability, Classroom Performance, Teacher Report, Adaptive Skills: aka functional living skills, Assistive Technology-SETT, WATI; Behavioral Performance- FBA, Communication, Developmental Skills, Executive Functioning Skills, Health, Hearing, Intellectual Ability, Motor Skills-fine and gross, Perceptual Motor, Social Skills, Vision-FVA.
- Once the evaluation is completed, you will have your first IEP meeting. You may request one of your EI therapists or case manager to attend the initial IEP meeting with you.
- Work with the school team members to create goals that are appropriate for where your child is performing and where you would like to be. Goals are based upon the identified needs in Present Levels.
- Contact the school your child will attend to take a tour and meet the staff.
- Ask your case manager if there are other programs your child will qualify for instead of EI, such as alternative preschools or ABA programs.
- If your state has Medicaid waiver lists and your child is not on them, do it now.
Transition to K (elementary)
What’s new: This is probably the most important IEP meeting you will have for your child because it becomes the baseline for what is offered in the school district. School district goals tend to be more academic than play-based early intervention goals.
How to prepare:
- Make sure the evaluation covers all areas of suspected disability, and that you agree with the present levels.
- Consider getting an independent neuropsychological evaluation to have an objective view of your child’s strengths/weaknesses and to get recommendations.
- Ask Early Intervention teachers and therapists to write ‘exit letters’ explaining the child’s present levels, and what techniques work and do not work for your child.
- Ask in writing for a copy of the proposed IEP document a few days before your IEP meeting, ‘so you can review it and participate as a full member of the IEP team.” (They do not legally have to provide one but often do if requested)
- Submit a Parent Letter of Concerns by email for the IEP team to incorporate into its entirety into the IEP document.
- Know your rights (do not sign anything at the meeting, etc.) Good primers are Wrightslaw books All About IEPs, From Emotions to Advocacy, Special Education Law.
- Bring a spouse, friend or advocate. Get a sitter for your other kids.
- Bring your list of questions/priorities/concerns to discuss
Sample goals to ask for: This is an individual educational program for each child, so goals will be different for every child. However, there are several areas where goals can be made.
IEP Goals are based on identified needs in Present Levels. If the specific need is not identified in Present Levels, there will not be a goal for it.
- Reading (letter recognition, letter sounds, sight words, CVC words)
- Math (more/less, bigger/smaller, matching, sequences, number recognition, 1:1 correspondence, whole/parts, addition)
- Writing (capital and lowercase letters, name, spelling)
- Speech/language (articulation, pronouns, he/she, prepositions, adjectives, wh questions; look to VB MAPP)
- Physical therapy (core strength, navigation/stairs, ball throwing, body awareness)
- Occupational therapy (finger isolation, pencil control, writing, fasteners, vision therapy, sequences, classroom routines)
- Adaptive PE (sports and fitness skills)
- Social skills (lunch bunch, best buddies, small groups, facilitated recess, Michelle Garcia Winner curriculum, inclusion)
- Behavioral plan: Our kids often need positive behavioral support to help them understand expectations (for example, to stand in line), communicate and socialize appropriately (to give high fives instead of hugs),
Here is an excellent article about transition to kindergarten: https://adayinourshoes.com/iep-kindergarten-transition/
Transition to middle school
- The transition to middle school is not a defined transition period per IDEA. However, kids’ developmental, social and academic demands change at this time as they enter adolescence and move from an elementary education setting to a middle or junior high school setting. Parents need to remain vigilant about their child’s identified needs in Present Levels, especially whenever social and academic demands change.
Some things to consider:
- Will all supports and services, including communication logs and data collection, follow the child uninterrupted to middle school?
- Will there be an opportunity to practice navigating a new building and meet teachers?
- As academic demands increase, which parts of the day will your child be included with typically developing peers and which will he/she have more individualized instruction? How will your child be included in school field trips and class events such as dances?
- If the school day is structured with multiple teachers/classrooms, how will increased transitions be handled?
- Are there additional opportunities for peer interaction as your child ages, such as band, a sport, music/art/PE class, or other after school clubs or recreational activities? As extracurriculars become more important, how will your child be supported?
- As social groups and interactions change, how will social skills be supported?
- How will your child be evaluated for Transition (adaptive and independence skills, work preferences, etc.) and how will those goals be supported?
Transition at 14 (IDEA says 16, some states have 14)
The following information was taken, in part, from the Iowa Area Education Agency Special Education Procedural Manual , July 1, 2019.
7 Parts of the Transition Process and How to Prepare for them
- Transition Assessment – provides data from which to plan and make decisions that assist the student to move to postsecondary activities of living, learning, and work. It involves input from the student, family, school personnel, and other relevant stakeholders such as adult agencies, related services personnel and all members of the IEP team.
- Transition Assessments should answer the following questions:
- What are the student’s postsecondary expectations in the areas of living, learning, and working?
- What skills does the student currently possess?
- What skills will the student need in order to meet their postsecondary expectations?
- What is the discrepancy between the students current level of functioning and the skills necessary for the desired postsecondary expectation
- Assessment should include the following
- Formal – normed assessments (comparing to same age non disabled peers) that assess transition skills
- Informal – observation, interview
- Current existing information – input from general education teachers, evaluations from employers/job coaches, Vocational Rehabilitation evaluations, etc.
- Prepare for the Meeting
- Meeting Attendance – All team members who were required to attend the IEP prior to student turning 16 (or earlier depending on the state) are required members of the transition IEP team. IDEA also requires that any agency that is likely to be responsible or paying for transition services to be invited to the meeting.
- Invite the student to the meeting – IDEA requires that students be invited to their IEP meeting if the purpose of the meeting is the consideration of postsecondary goals and needed transition services.
- Prepare the Student for the Meeting – Helping the student learn the following items allow them to participate more in their IEP meeting and prepare themselves for postsecondary goals.
- Understand their own strengths and skills and be able to communicate those to others.
- Understand disability and communicate to others the nature of the disability and related learning characteristics.
- Learn about types of accommodations that might help them succeed in the classroom.
- Advocate for themselves and develop skills for self determination and independent decision making.
- Become more involved in their own education and provide input to the IEP for developing goals.
- Hold the IEP Meeting and Develop the Transition IEP
- Process for Completing the Transition IEP
- Consider the Student’s Interests and Preferences – Must be from the student’s point of view and must relate to postsecondary expectations for living, learning, and working.
- Documentation of Transition Assessments – The IEP must document transition information, including sources and results, in the areas of living, learning, and working.
- Documentation of Postsecondary Expectations – Must address expectations for living, learning, and working, and must:
- Project beyond high school
- Be based on assessment information, including interests and preferences.
- Be observable
- Include an anticipated result in each area of living, learning, and working.
- Become more specific as a student approaches postsecondary transition.
- Documentation of Course of Study – The course of study must include:
- How it will be determined that the student has met the graduation requirements.
- The student’s current status in regards to the graduation requirements.
- The target graduation date for the student.
- Documentation of Goals – Goals must support the pursuit of postsecondary expectations.
Provide Supports, Services, and Activities
- Supports – Items or persons provided to support the student. Can also be training or professional development for staff who work with the student. Examples include:
- Assistive Technology
- Interpreters or paraprofessionals
- Educational opportunities for teachers.
- Services – Actions designed to meet the unique needs of a student. They are things that are required to assist the student. Examples include:
- Specially designed instruction
- Related services
- Health services
- Transition services
- Activities – Events of tasks that a student needs to complete in order to access the educational program. These are events or tasks that the student needs to pursue postsecondary expectations, but are areas where the student does not need specialized instruction to learn the skill.
- Agency Linkages – Connections to agencies outside of school that can/will provide or fund services in postsecondary living, learning, and working environments.
- Vocational Rehabilitation
- Social Security Administration
- Disability support services provided by colleges and universities.
- Monitor Progress – Ongoing process of collecting data on the IEP goals and using it to design instruction and make changes to students educational programming.
- Prepare for Transfer of Rights at Age of Majority – Notice and documentation of transfer of rights are required at the following times:
- Notice that rights will transfer – Beginning at least one year prior to the student’s 18th birthday.
- Notice that rights have transferred – When the student turns 18.
- Notice that rights have not been transferred – When someone else has been appointed to represent the educational interests of an eligible individual (establishment of guardianship).
- Preparing for Student to Exit from High School – When a student graduates from secondary school or exceeds the age of eligibility, the school is responsible to provide a summary of academic achievement and functional performance. The school is also responsible for providing a summary of supports, services, activities, and linkages that will help the student while pursuing the postsecondary expectations.
Several steps have been outlined that will be important in developing a transition plan: 1. Describe the student’s strengths and present levels of academic achievement and functional performance. 2. Develop measurable postsecondary goals based upon the student’s strengths and challenges. 3. Develop corresponding IEP goals that will enable the student to meet his or her post- secondary goals. 4. Describe the transition services needed to help the student achieve his or her desired post-school goals.
In the eyes of the law, even a person with a significant developmental, cognitive or mental health disability is legally permitted to make decisions on his or her own behalf at the age of majority. The only way parents can continue making decisions for their child is to become his or her legal guardian.
To obtain guardianship, an attorney is not legally required, but you may want to consider hiring one with expertise in this area. Each family is unique in that there are many significant choices and decisions to be made in the process and an attorney can help you with those. You can search for an attorney in your area by visiting the Autism Speaks Resource Guide at autismspeaks.org/resource-guide.