Does your child have an Individualized Education Program (IEP)? If this is a new development, this list of terms can help you get started. Here are key terms you’ll see and hear as you work with the IEP team.
Accommodation: An accommodation is a change in the way your child learns or demonstrates knowledge. Accommodations can help kids with IEPs learn and then demonstrate what they’ve learned without having learning issues get in the way. For instance, if your child takes longer to answer questions, she might be allowed extra time to take a test. Even with accommodations, kids are expected to learn the same content as their peers.
Annual goals: The IEP lists the academic and functional (everyday) skills the IEP team thinks your child can achieve by the end of the year. These goals are geared toward helping your child take part in the general education classroom. IEP goals need to be realistic and measurable.
Extended school year services (ESY): Some students receive special education services outside of the regular school year, such as during the summer or, less commonly, during extended breaks like winter break.
General education curriculum: This is the knowledge and skills that all students throughout a state are expected to master. The curriculum varies from state to state.
Least restrictive environment (LRE): Students with documented disabilities must be taught in the least restrictive environment. This means they must be taught in the same setting as students without documented disabilities as much as possible. The school must offer services and supports to help a child with an IEP succeed in a general education classroom.
Modification: A modification is a change in what a student is expected to learn and demonstrate. For example, a teacher might ask the class to write an essay that analyzes three major battles during a war. A child with a modification may only be asked to write about the basic facts of those battles. Modifications are different from accommodations.
Parent report: A parent report is a letter you write. It’s a good way for you to document your child’s strengths, struggles and success at school, at home and in the community. By sharing the report with your child’s IEP team, you give them a more complete view of your child.
Present levels of performance (PLOP, PLP, PLAFF): This is a snapshot of how your child is doing right now. PLOP describes your child’s academic skills (such as reading level) and functional skills (such as making conversation or writing with a pencil). The school prepares this report for the IEP meeting. This is the starting point for setting annual IEP goals.
Standards-based IEP: This alternative to the traditional IEP is only used in some states. A standards-based IEP measures a student’s academic performance against what the state expects of other students in the same grade.
Supplementary aids and services: These are supports to help a child learn in the general education classroom. This can include equipment or assistive technology, such as audiobooks or highlighted classroom notes.
Transition plan: This part of a teen’s IEP lays out what the teen must learn and do in high school in order to succeed as a young adult. The teen and the IEP team develop the plan together before it kicks in at age 16. The transition plan includes goals and activities that are academic and functional but that extend beyond school to practical life skills and job training.
Keep this list of terms handy for future reference. You may also want to learn the key terms that describe your child’s rights.