The IEP Tool Belt

When building a home, we must all equip ourselves with the necessary tools to make the structure sound and sustainable.  Assembling that tool belt and understanding when it is best to use the tools is a must when entering into the world of all things related to education.  Today, I want to introduce you to the basic tools needed for an Individualize Education Program (IEP) as a parent.  Grab your belt and let’s start.


  1. The Hammer

Hammering Out the First Details and Establishing a Smooth Service to Start

Whether it’s you who starts the process of an IEP and services or the school, the first step is the referral for evaluation. 

Once your child has receives the appropriate testing and evaluations to decide which services he or she needs and is determined eligible for an IEP, a meeting must be scheduled and held within 30 days of this determination in order to develop an IEP.  Hopefully, by the end of the process, the nails are all hammered down and you and your team are ready to roll. 


  1. The Screwdriver Set

Related Services, Supplementary Aids and Assistive Technology

Your child has rights to accommodations and supplementary services within his or her school day to ensure that he or she is successful in all areas of education.  The Individualized Education Program outlines the related services needed, as well as supplementary aids that are necessary for your child’s success.  One of my favorite resources is  It has a wide range of information on services and supports for your child.  The website lists some samples of supplementary aids and resources which include, but are not limited to: 

Supports to address environmental needs (e.g., preferential seating: planned seating on the bus, in the classroom, at lunch, in the auditorium, and in other locations; altered physical room arrangement)

Levels of staff support needed (e.g., consultation, stop-in support, classroom companions, one-on-one assistance, types of personnel support: behavior specialist, health care assistant, instructional support assistant)

Planning time for collaboration needed by staff

Child’s specialized equipment needs (e.g., wheelchair, computer, software, voice synthesizer, augmentative communication device, utensils/cups/plates, restroom equipment)

Pacing of instruction needed (e.g., breaks, more time, home set of materials)

Presentation of subject matter needed (e.g., taped lectures, sign language, primary language, paired reading and writing)

Materials needed (e.g., scanned tests and notes into computer, shared note-taking, large print, Braille, assistive technology)

Assignment modification needed (e.g., shorter assignments, taped lessons, instructions broken down into steps, recorded or typed assignment)

Self-management and/or follow-through needed (e.g., calendars, teach study skills)

Testing adaptations needed (e.g., read test to child, modify format, extend time)

Social interaction support needed (e.g., provide circle of friends, use cooperative learning groups, teach social skills)

Training needed for personnel


  1. The Level

Finding A Balance of Services

Getting that bubble to balance in the middle of the level is sometimes frustrating and can take a lot of work.  Move the left side up a little, now down, back up.  Then someone walks in and points out that your picture is crooked.  (Throws hands in the air)

Does your child have an appropriate balance between the general education classroom and special education services?  How are they determining this?  Creating a good balance of exposure to the general education setting is important. Recent research states that exposure to peers outside of the autism spectrum provides opportunity for learning the key social skills needed for success in life. 


  1. The Tape Measure 

The Bread and Butter

How is progress measured for your child at their school?  The tape measure will be an important tool for this step.  First, during the yearly meeting, you will work with the team to establish annual goals.  A goal is a measurable statement that describes what a child is reasonably expected to accomplish from the specialized educational program during the school year.  

Each benchmark set for your child should have AT LEAST two short-term objectives to accompany it. 

Here is a sample:

Given 100 high-frequency spelling words, student will correctly spell a minimum of 75/100 on eight out of ten tries tested on weekly quizzes by January 15, 2016.


Objective #1:  In three instructional weeks with guided process, student will verbalize his spelling words to his teacher at a rate of nine of ten times correctly.

Objective #2:  By the end of the second nine weeks, using prompts that decrease in assistance, student will identify each sight word on his assigned list from a word bank of 20 or more other random spelling words.

Objective #3:  By October 31, using multiple choice questions, student will be able to choose correct spelling of sight words off of his weekly sight word list. 


Amongst the most important aspects of this step are to ensure that the child’s goals set in the annual goal section are:

1. Relevant 

2. Achievable

3. Outcome driven 


  1. The Pliers 

Some of the Hard Stuff

Testing and assessments for the schools and their districts require that all students take part in the state and district assessments.  The purpose of these assessments is to measure progress and achievement. Requesting that your child not have to take these tests can actually hinder the understanding of the growth your child is making at the school.   However, testing and assessment is not always easy for children who learn differently, so accommodations and modifications may be necessary.  It’s the responsibility of the IEP team (which includes you) to decide how your child will engage in the examination process.  This decision should be documented as a part of your child’s IEP. On occasion, the team may decide that the assessment is not appropriate for the child, but make sure all team members make the decision and everyone agrees prior to signing any document


Knowing when you are to use each tool is also important.  Parents are guaranteed rights during the referral process, evaluation process and in determining eligibility, IEP development, placement decisions and in disciplinary actions.  Involvement is not only guaranteed, but you are an active participant and your voice matters during the processes.  One of the greatest things you can do is invest time in understanding the IEP and your rights in its development and processes as it is truly the tool belt that will lead your child to educational success in their lifetime.   Don’t forget that you are a key member of the IEP process and, even though it can be quite overwhelming, it is okay to ask questions.  Become a partner in the IEP process rather than someone who is merely present in the room.  By doing so you will provide a rich and cooperative understanding of your child so the best outcomes for his or her education are provided.  

Stay tuned for future Acronym Decoders and Transition Services info in entries to come.  Also, feel free to email blogging requests or questions for blogs to


Published 2015/09/30 by Nicole McLain
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