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First and foremost, a team approach should be used in developing a student’s IEP. A variety of school personnel (e.g., general and special education teachers, therapists) and family members should collaborate to establish meaningful goals and objectives for a student and to identity the services and supports needed to promote student success. Each team member brings a unique perspective to the table in terms of the scope of the curriculum, demands of the environment, resources available, as well as needs and strengths of the student.
With the shift to academic standards for student with significant disabilities, the general education teacher’s role in the IEP process has become increasingly important. General education teachers bring with them in depth knowledge about the content areas and they can assist in interpreting the standards, benchmarks, and grade-level expectations in a meaningful way for students with significant disabilities.
The following guidelines, based upon recommendations in Courtade-Little and Browder’s Aligning IEPs to Academic Standards, 2005, can be used by IEP teams in constructing standards-based IEPs.
Remember that therapy services provided through the IEP should support a student’s achievement of his or her goals and objectives. As such, therapy should be integrated within the context of other IEP goal areas to the greatest extent possible.
Understanding a student’s skill level related to use of symbols is key to providing effective instruction, accommodations and supports that enhance literacy and numeracy access. Furthermore, this understanding will help guide the instructional team in identifying targets for instruction and achievement. Browder, Wakeman & Flowers (AERA 2007 Presentation) offer the following definitions of symbolic levels of students, along with examples of how students at various symbolic levels can access academic content, and the type of achievement target that may be appropriate for the students:
Examples of How Student Access Academic Content
(speaks or has vocabulary of signs and/or pictures to communicate. Recognizes some sight words, numbers, etc.)
· Reads some sight words
· Has large picture vocabulary
· Recognizes numbers
· Beginning writing or graphic representation
· Increasing vocabulary
· Applying symbols to wide range of grade-level content
(beginning to use pictures or other symbols to communicate within a limited vocabulary)
· Uses small picture vocabulary system
· May recognize a few specific numbers (e.g., age)
· May recognize a few specific letters (e.g., first letter of name)
· Acquiring new symbols that can be “pivotal” broad content
· Showing as much understanding as possible with current symbol system
(Communicates with gestures, eye gaze, purposeful moving to object and sounds)
· Shows understanding and is intentional in communication efforts using objects, movement, sound
· Will be learning first symbols concurrent with content learning
· Showing understanding concretely (non-print)
· Acquiring first symbols concurrent with content
(Has no clear response and no objective in communication)
· Inconsistent in showing intentionality of communication (e.g., crying may be general discomfort vs. requesting food)
· Difficulty to consistently interpret intent or meaning of movements, sounds, eye gaze
· Showing reaction to activity through opening eyes, sounds, increased alertness
· Increasing focus of attention and general responding
Adapted from Browder, Wakeman, Flowers, Rickelman,
Pugalee, & Karvonen, (2006)
There is no reason to write the GLEs or Extended Standards verbatim on a student’s IEP. The IEP should specify goals and objectives (based upon an individual students’ strengths and needs) that will allow the student to have access to and make progress in the general education curriculum. For example, at the 3-4 grade level span, under Standard Seven in English Language Arts, Extended Standard 17/14 is as follows:
Demonstrate understanding of information in texts,
Identifying main idea, and
Demonstrate understanding of information in texts,
An IEP team may determine that this Extended Standard is a high priority for a student in that mastery of the related skills will have an impact across multiple content areas. Rather than writing the Extended Standard verbatim on a student’s IEP, the team may use the student’s present level of performance to construct an IEP objective to ensure that classroom instruction is aligned with the student’s needs. Examples of related objectives based upon students’ symbolic functioning levels are as follows:
Pre Symbolic: Using 4th grade adapted stories read aloud (reduced text, repeated story lines, object representation), Debbie will select an object/picture to represent a story’s main idea for 4/5 stories.
Early Symbolic: Using 4th grade adapted stories read aloud (reduced text, repeated story lines, picture/icon representations), Max will sequence 3 pictures to retell a story for ¾ provided opportunities.
Symbolic: Using 4th grade adapted stories read aloud (reduced text, repeated story lines, picture/icon representations), Josh will fill-in sentence starters with icons to identify multiple ideas represented in the story, 80% of opportunities recorded across a 9 week period.
An IEP is based upon a student’s total needs, both in terms of access to the broad general education curriculum and other need areas of the student. Some objectives may target skills related to a specific academic content area (e.g., a mathematics objective related to counting objects); some objectives may target broader access skills (e.g., using picture icons to communicate across academic content areas and educational environments); while other objectives may target more functional skills (e.g., accessing public transportation to get to the local community college) Courtade-Little and Browder, 2005.
Courtade-Little and Browder suggest the following
approaches promoting access:
· Select skills that promote overall literacy and numeracy (e.g., skills that promote broad concepts in these areas)
· Focus on self-determination skills (e.g., skills that increase their chances of taking control of their lives in and out of school)
· Use assistive technology to increase active, independent responding
· Use functional activities to give meaning to the academic concept
Consideration should also be given as to how the general education activities can be adapted or modified to better support the active participation of all learners in the class, including students with significant disabilities. Focusing on the incorporation of students’ strengths and interests, as opposed to just deficits, can facilitate this process.
The foundation skills of communication, problem-solving, resource access and utilization, and citizenship are relevant students in all disciplines. The foundation skills represent global outcomes for all students who are to become lifelong learners and productive citizens. While these skills apply to both students with and without disabilities, they may represent major areas of focus for students with the most significant disabilities. The following are sample ways in which students evidence foundation skills:
· Joint attention
· Ask for Help
· Follow directives
· Answer questions
· Initiate communication
· Respond to systematic/movement cues
· Orient to sound and/or speaker
· Communicate for various purposes (e.g., for needs, wants, expressing opinions, commenting)
· Attend to others
· Attention and focus
· Make a choice among items
· Making associations
· 1 : 1 correspondences
Resource access and utilization
· Use the internet to access information
· Check out books/DVDs/CDs from library
· Use information booth in public places
· Identify and access resource personnel
Linking and generating knowledge
· Utilize library resources to gather information
· Use assistive technology (AT) to gather and express information
· Apply learned skills in a variety of environments
· Actively participate in classroom
· Follow rules – participate in society/school/community/classroom
· Participate in clubs and committees
· Express opinions, make choices, make requests, ask questions
· Respond to greetings
· Share materials
· Respond to others request for help
· Acknowledge others
· Participate in corporative learning groups
· Attend school
· Hold a job
· Access public facilities
This tool, the GLE and Extended Standards: Scope and Sequence Matrix, can assist the IEP team in establishing an instructional focus linked to academic standards for a student with significant cognitive disabilities. Completion of this process can assist in the following:
· planning for a student’s IEP, including goals, objectives, and supports tailored to the student’s individual needs.
· establishing expectations for the student’s academic growth.
· addressing scope and sequence of the general education curriculum.
Directions for Completion:
1. Determine the grade level scope and sequence of instruction for the year. Create a grid to guide decisions.
Using the Louisiana Grade-Level Expectations and Louisiana Extended Standards as a guide, complete the planning matrix for each content area (ELA, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies). Solicit input from teachers (general education and special education), parents, and other instructional team members in reviewing the scope and sequence of age appropriate grade level curriculum.
· Interview the general education teacher(s) to identify GLEs to be addressed each grading period across the school year. Put a check (√) by those GLEs in the applicable grading period column.
· Identify Extended Standards to be addressed each grading period by marking the corresponding GLE with an asterisk (*).
· Considering the student’s strengths and instructional needs, select/prioritize those Extended Standards that:
o promote overall literacy and numeracy
o promote independence
o reference parent/student preference
o can be incorporated across a variety of
2. ID GLEs linked to Extended Standards
Highlight GLEs with corresponding Extended Standards to be addressed by the individual student.
3. Kick it up a notch!: Identify additional student specific priority GLEs (that go beyond the Extended Standards) that occur across grading periods, grade levels and/or content areas. Highlight identified GLEs.
GLE and Extended Standards: Scope and Sequence Matrix Blank Form (Word file)
GLE and Extended Standards: Scope and Sequence Matrix – Sample completed forms (Word file)
The IEP should identify the strategies and supports necessary for the student to address the selected GLEs. Keeping this in mind, consider the following:
a. What is the student’s present level of symbolic use? What are the related instructional implications (e.g., modification of materials, strategies to facilitate growth in student’s capacity to engage with symbolic materials)?
b. What are the student’s needs in regards to instructional materials (e.g., alternate formats) to support access to the academic standards across all content areas?
c. How does the student communicate, and what supports are needed to enhance age and topic appropriate communication across environments and content areas?
d. What assistive technology is needed to support student
access of the standards?
e. Are there broad goals/objectives that are needed to support access across content areas? For example, what skills need to be taught so the student can actively participate in academic routines that occur in typical classrooms (e.g., contribute during whole class discussions, take turns in cooperative group learning activities, answer questions related to content, transition from one task to the next)?
f. Are there goals/objectives needed which focus on a specific content area? Keep in mind that it may be appropriate to write IEP objectives which correlate with the GLEs/Extended Standards for some student, whereas, other students may benefit from objectives that focus on individualized skills needed to access curriculum activities.
a. Priority GLEs for students with significant disabilities should be identified in each core academic content area, should be reflective of the abilities and interests of the student, and should follow the scope and sequence of our state curriculum. To accomplish this, instructional teams should examine the grade band GLEs that will be addressed through the course of the school year. It is important to note that many of the GLEs addressed in the state curriculum appear repeatedly within a grade level and across grade levels with increasing complexity. The GLEs identified for students with significant disabilities should reflect this growth in complexity both within a school year and across grade levels.
b. The Scope and Sequence Matrix Form should be completed at the start of the school year, start of the semester, or start of the marking period which may or may not coincide with the date of the IEP.
c. The more input obtained from instructional team members (special education staff, general education staff, parents, etc.), the more valid the instructional decisions become.
d. Consider GLEs that are addressed multiple times, across a variety of content areas and across a variety of grade levels. Students with significant disabilities often need multiple opportunities to practice skills and learn content. Therefore, identifying GLEs that are addressed multiple times increases the student’s opportunities for success.
e. Depending on the abilities and needs of the student, consideration should be given to the number of GLEs selected (not too many, not too few).
Essential issues are concepts/practices that must be considered when planning an IEP and instructional day for a student who has a significant disability. A description of each essential issue follows.
· Ability to Contribute: Schools have a responsibility to give each student the chance to make his/her contribution. Without opening the door for ALL students to belong, we lose untold opportunities to gain from the presence of others, for it is only through their presence that we can begin to see what individuals have to contribute to a community.
· Age-appropriateness: Age-appropriateness means that the skills taught; activities, routines, and materials selected; and the language used must reflect the chronological age of the student. These practices ensure that a student’s dignity is promoted and maintained, that responses from peers and society are positive, that student preferences are clear and respected, and that skill development and active participation in typical activities are enhanced.
· Assistive Technology: Assistive technology devices are any items, pieces of equipment, or product systems that are used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability. Students with significant disabilities should have access to technology that will assist them in developing and participating in meaningful academics, social relationships, and employment activities. Both low and high technology approaches can be combined to allow students to communicate with others and to exert varied levels of control over their environments.
· Friendships: Friendships are relationships between two or more individuals that are based on mutual respect, interest, and affection for each other that lasts over time. In order for friendships to develop, all individuals, regardless of disability level, should enjoy ongoing opportunities for interaction with a variety of people (across a variety of ages) and in a variety of settings (school, community, and work). Students with significant disabilities are seldom provided opportunities to befriend age-appropriate peers, resulting in a ‘circle of friends’ with an unnatural proportion of adults.
· Future-oriented: Future-oriented means keeping “an eye on the future.” When selecting activities and skills for instruction, selection should be based on current needs and future goals that will ultimately result in desired adult outcomes. Information for making these decisions should come from student and family preference assessments and input of the instructional team.
· Generalization: Generalization refers to the ability to transfer learned skills to other settings and to demonstrate those skills with other people, materials, environments, and similar tasks. In order to support generalization, systematic instruction should occur in a variety of settings, including classrooms, school campuses, and for older students, community and vocational sites.
· Inclusion: Inclusion refers to chronologically age-appropriate membership of students with disabilities in a variety of settings, including neighborhood schools, general education classrooms, community, and work settings, providing the necessary accommodations and supports to allow individuals to participate successfully in those settings.
· Partial Participation: The principle of partial participation is an affirmation that students with significant disabilities can be taught to participate in activities with their peers across a wide variety of environments. This principle calls for the provision of individualized instruction, adaptations, and supports to facilitate a student’s meaningful participation in activities, regardless of the level or complexity of the student’s disability.
· Positive Behavioral Support: Positive behavioral support (PBS) is a research based approach that emphasizes identifying and implementing strategies for supporting desired student behaviors, rather than relying on putative measure. It incorporates the use of positive treatment approaches that are socially acceptable and foster student dignity. The promotion of “quality of life” and inclusive opportunities underlies positive behavioral support systems. Key features include environmental rearrangements, communication support, curricular modifications, reinforcement of appropriate behaviors and teaching replacement behaviors.
· Self-determination: Self-determination is the ability to make choices or express preferences and then have those selections honored. It is the ability to identify a personal vision and to set and achieve goals. Self-determination reflects personal traits and skills, including self-esteem, assertiveness, self-advocacy, control, choice-making, and creativity.
· Student Dignity: Student dignity refers to treating individuals with respect in accordance with their chronological age, individual differences, and preferences. Identifying the preferences of students with significant disabilities is an essential component of developing and implementing effective instructional strategies. Often, students with the most significant disabilities have difficulty expressing preferences and the instructional team must conduct systematic assessments in order to continuously identify, update, and build a menu of students’ preferences. Preferences should be identified in the following areas: activities, settings, materials, and partnerships.
· Student Preferences: Student preferences refers to students’ abilities to communicate (verbally or nonverbally) their likes and dislikes in order to promote a meaningful quality of life. These preferences should be incorporated into the design and implementation of instruction for the student.
As students reach middle and high school levels, IEP teams should support students in planning for post-school desired activities, including postsecondary education, employment, independent living and/or community participation based upon individual preferences and needs. Community access and vocational training/employment become key program considerations, especially at the high school and post secondary levels.
· Community Access: Community access refers to having the same opportunities to access community environments and services as do typical persons, regardless of disability level. Community environments include, but are not limited to, community colleges, libraries, recreational centers, banks, grocery stores, restaurants, theaters, museums, and shopping malls.
While a limited amount of community-based instruction may be appropriate for younger students (middle school), this type of instruction is better suited to older students. There was a time when students with significant disabilities received extensive community-based training at an early age. Multiple problems existed with this practice, including the removal of students from access to the general curriculum and segregation from same age typical peers. As such, both educators and families have recognized the need to align community access activities with that of the general school population (to the greatest extent possible) and to provide community-based instruction within the context of natural experiences. Parental input is essential in making informed decisions about community-based instruction.
· Vocational Training/Employment: Vocational training provides opportunities for individuals to develop work skills and to sample jobs on the school campus and in the community to identify job preferences for employment. Employment refers to meaningful work that is dignified, integrated, and paid, and which may be supported or competitive in nature. Vocational training and employment are directly linked to transition programming.
The IEP team should consider a student's need for accessible instructional materials/alternate format by answering the following question: Does the student need core and/or supplemental instructional materials in alternate format (e.g., digitized text books, Braille text books, text modified to present content through a primarily graphic/pictoral mode)? Information related to this decision making process can be found in the AIM brochure.
Understanding a student’s skill level related to use of symbols is key to providing effective instruction, accommodations,and supports that enhance literacy and numeracy access. Furthermore, this understanding will help guide the instructional team in identifying targets for instruction and achievement. In the chart provided here, definitions of symbolic levels of students, along with examples of how students at various symbolic levels can access academic content, and the type of achievement target that may be appropriate for the students are offered.
The materials provided here can be used in the provision of professional development activities linked to writing IEPs.
Materials Linked to Fall 2009 Workshops (IEPs for Students with Significant Disabiltiies: A Standards-Based Appoach)
Writing Standards Based IEPs for Students with Significant Disabilities is a PowerPoint presentation which provides an overview of legal requirements and best practices related to IEP development for this population of students. The following PowerPoint presentations cover specific topics related to standards-based IEPs for students with significant disabilities: Alignment vs. Access, Active Participation, Additional Strategies, and Symbolic and Literacy Levels.
Supplemental Materials Aligned to Writing IEPs for Students with Significant Disabiltiies
Sample IEP Objectives contains objectives written in a variety of "styles." These are only samples!
Self-Evaluation Tool is a tool for IEPs teams to use in evaluating the content of an IEP for a student with significant disabilties.
Adapatation Modifications and Supports Eval Tool is a rubric for instructional teams to use in evaluation the appropriatness of supports.
Math Web Sites and Electronic Book Sites are resource lists developed by the Louisiana Region 3 Assistvie Technology Center.
Materials Linked to Summer-Fall 2009 Workshops (Writing Standards-Based IEPs)
The materials in this section were used in IEP workshops sponsored by the Louisiana Department of Education. These materials relate to IEP development for all students with disabilities. The needs of students with significant disabilities are included within these training materials.
Module 1: Overview
Module 2: Writing Standards-Based IEPs