10 Ways to Make an Individual Education Plan Useful and Meaningful

Article By: Jennifer Krumins
Article Date: 09/23/2007

Settings goals, working to achieve them, celebrating success and learning from failure are all a fundamental component of life. As Dr. Samuel Johnson has stated, “Our aspirations are our possibilities.” When we hold ourselves to a higher standards and we take steps towards attaining those objectives we are far more likely to arrive at our destination. Whether we are thinking about the education of a 4 year old or a 40 year old, the essence of education is setting goals and objectives and the working to reach them. This is especially true in the area of special education; goal setting and individualized planning is embedded into special education law in both Canada and the United States. Whether we call them individual education plans, program plans, or special education plans the foundation is the goal setting. In both countries, those students which require extra support due to significant learning challenges, modified curriculum and/or specialized equipment will have the benefit of an individual plan that sets goals, identifies supports and resources that are needed and identify effective teaching and assessment strategies in order to achieve those goals. These are usually created in September or when a student enters the school, reviewed once or twice and then tucked neatly away in the student records. It is such a shame to think that the value of the document is often lost!

Individual Education Plans are as useful as educators and parents make them! It is true that by simply completing the document, having parents sign it and reviewing it at the end of reporting periods we educators have accomplished what is the legal mandate. But, what too many educators don’t realize is that the individual education plan is an ethical responsibility as well. It is a tool that is intended to benefit the student. It is intended to be useful. It is up to us, as teachers and parents to decide to make the document useful. It is only as meaningful as we choose to make it.

? DECIDE to make it useful; parents should know what the goals are and take steps to support the attainment of those goals

? Keep a copy of goals and objectives in a binder on the teacher’s desk

? Post the current objectives on a chart

? When appropriate post the goals and objectives inside a student binder or on the student’s homework area at home

? Teachers could “pencil in” anecdotal notes as observations are made and data is collected

? Record dates and comments as objectives are achieved

? Record a note when it is observed that the objective needs to be broken down into simpler steps or modified in some way

? Add successful teaching strategies and resources as they are identified

? Create data charts or checklists that list each objective and find opportunities to collect and record the data (keep these on a clipboard or in a binder)

? Ask for the parent’s ideas and input and communicate with them informally and often about the student’s progress

The tools are there. It is up to us, as parents and educators to make them what we want them to be.

Jennifer Krumins

Author of Been There. Done That. Finally Getting it Right. A Guide to Educational Planning for Students with Autism: Lessons from a Mother and Teacher

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