Episode 3: I.E.P.’s Don’t Have To Be Scary

In this Episode of “After The Bell Rings”, Tricia Aukamp, School Psychologist from Silver Creek Elementary and Marine Elementary, joins Amy Van Hoose to discuss the I.E.P. (Individualized Education Process).  In the episode they will review what exactly an I.E.P. is, how students qualify, and what to expect through the process.

Tricia Aukamp has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology with a minor in Sociology from Eastern Illinois University. After graduation in 2005, she continued her education at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. She graduated from SIUE in 2009 with a Master of Science degree in Clinical Child & School Psychology as well as a Specialist degree in School Psychology. She began working with Triad at Silver Creek Elementary and Marine Elementary the following fall and have remained at these two schools since that time. Her educational interests include Response to Intervention, curriculum-based measurement, and data collection. On a personal note, she was born and raised in Highland and now lives in Grantfork with her husband Kyle and two young children, Halle and Dean. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her family, and completing many DIY projects.


What is an I.E.P.?

I.E.P. stands for Individualized Education Plan and is just that – a plan for your child that is individualized to their needs as a student.  A student might be referred for an I.E.P. when their needs are perceived to be greater than what can be provided in general education alone.  We can provide a lot of support within general education but sometimes students may need more and that is okay.  The following is what you can expect through the process.  

How are kids referred for an I.E.P.?

  • A referral is a required first step before an evaluation can take place.  Academic concerns, attention or behavioral concerns, language or articulation concerns, motor concerns, vision or hearing loss are among some reasons for referral.
  • Children can be referred through the school.
  • They can also be referred through the Pre-K screenings which our district usually holds  in September and then again in March.  
  • Parents also have the right to request an evaluation and hold a meeting to discuss their concerns.  It is important that parent requests come in writing.  

What happens first after a child is referred?

  • Once a referral has been a Domains meeting is scheduled.   The goal of this meeting is to identify what additional information we need in order to make informed decisions about your child.  
  • There will be  team of people at this meeting.  The team includes at least the parent or legal guardian, the school principal or someone to represent the district, your child’s classroom teacher, the special education teacher, and the school psychologist.  Depending upon the areas of concern, the school nurse, social worker, and related service personnel such as speech therapist, physical therapist, or occupational therapist may be there as well.  The reason for having such a large group is so that the team consists of individuals who can bring different perspectives and expertise to the evaluation.  
  • At this meeting we will go through 8 different areas and ask questions about the student with respect to each – the areas include Academic, Functional, Cognitive, Communication, Health, Hearing & Vision, Motor, and Social/Emotional.  We talk about what information we have in each area, are there concerns within any of the areas, and if so, then what type of assessments we need to do to gather more information.  
  • Types of assessments would include academic testing, cognitive testing, behavioral assessments usually through rating scales and observations, speech/language testing, review of medical history, etc.  
  • Information should be collected through a variety of approaches (observations, interviews, tests, curriculum based assessment, and so on) and from a variety of sources (parents, teachers, specialists, peers, and the child).
  • Parental consent is mandatory, evaluation will not be completed without parental consent.

How is the evaluation completed?

  • The school has 60 school days to complete the evaluation.  During this time, anyone doing testing works with the teacher and each other to come up with appropriate times to pull the student or work within the classroom. 
  • After testing is complete, results are analyzed and are prepared to be presented to the I.E.P. team at the next meeting.  

What happens after the evaluation?

  • The next step after the evaluation is to hold the eligibility meeting.  The goal of the eligibility meeting is to present the results and then discuss eligibility as a team.  

Who is eligible for an I.E.P.?

  • Students can qualify for an I.E.P. as long as they meet criteria for 1 of the 13 eligibility categories as set forth by ISBE (Illinois State Board of Education).
  • The eligibility categories include:
    • Developmental Delay
    • Specific Learning Disability
    • Other Health Impairment
    • Speech and/or Language Impairment
    • Intellectual Disability
    • Autism
    • Visual Impairment including Blindness
    • Deafness
    • Deaf & Blindness
    • Emotional Disability
    • Hearing Impairment
    • Multiple Disabilities
    • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Each eligibility category has its own set of criteria but one of the most predominant criteria for any child to be eligible to receive special education services is that the child must have a disability that impacts their educational performance and/or their independent functioning.  Before the special education services can begin, the parent must provide informed consent to allow the district to proceed with the placement.
  • If the child qualifies and consent is obtained, then the I.E.P. is developed  

What does the I.E.P. include?

  • The I.E.P. typically starts with discussing the present levels of performance of that child including both the strengths and needs.
  • Goals will be created that will be used to measure the student’s progress.  Goals need to align with the areas of discrepancy and are individualized for each student to help fill in gaps or to work on increasing their independence.
  • Accommodations and assessments will be discussed in order to identify different strategies that the student may need to be successful.  These may include accommodation like extended time, small group setting, provided a copy of notes, frequent checks for understanding, etc.
  • The last section of the I.E.P. will go over the services and placement to be provided.  What different type of instruction will be used and how often?  Will services be provided in the general education setting or within the special education setting? For how many minutes a day?  Will they receive speech services or social work services and for how much time a week?  The goal with the services and placement section is that services are provided through the L.R.E. or least restrictive environment.  So we want to give just enough service to help them progress and be successful while not providing to much service that they miss out on opportunities within the general education setting.   
  • All areas of the I.E.P. are discussed and decided upon as a team and span the dates of one calendar year.  Once agreed upon, the I.E.P. is checked over and you will receive a copy of all eligibility and I.E.P. documents.  

What happens after the I.E.P.?

  • Parents will receive progress reports, typically this is done quarterly in our district.  When report cards come home at the end of each quarter you will also receive progress reports on each goal within the I.E.P.  
  • At least once per year, the I.E.P. team is required to meet for the dual purpose of evaluating the implementation of the current I.E.P. and to develop the next annual I.E.P. with new goals and minutes if needed.  
  • Also, at a minimum, the I.E.P. team is to determine if formal evaluation is required every three years.  This is usually called the three year reevaluation.  However, the I.E.P. team can ask that formal evaluations be conducted more frequently if needed.
  • It is always important to remember that the I.E.P. is a “living” document and can be altered during the school term as needed based on the student’s needs.  

What sort of tips do you have for parents who are going to attend an I.E.P. meeting?

  • Attend and be prepared to participate in the meetings. You know your child the best and we want your insight.  Parents are key decision makers and an equal member of the I.E.P. team. Share letters, reports, or other materials that can help the school understand your child and provide appropriate services to your child. This information could be from teachers, doctors, or community agencies.
  • Be able to talk about your child’s strengths and needs.  Communicate positive information as well as concerns. Let us know what works for you at home.
  • I always like to tell parents to bring someone with them.  Sitting down with a large team of people and going through a lot of information about your own child can be difficult and having someone there for support can be helpful.  
  • Come with and ask questions – anything you have concerns with or want answered, feel free to ask.  If you do not understand something, ask for clarification.

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The Brand New Kid – From one of America’s most respected journalists, The Brand New Kid is a heartwarming story about tolerance and the need to give others a chance that will entertain and inspire children and adults alike.
Why I Laugh – a first person account about living with autism
Say Hello – With arresting images by a master illustrator and a simple, touching text by his son, SAY HELLO evokes the joy and relief of finding a new friend just when it’s needed the most.
Marco and I Want To Play Ball – a true story of inclusion and self-determination- this is part of a whole series of books called the “Finding My Way” books. They have several titles about inclusion and various disabilities.
 Out of My Mind is about a girl named Melody, an intelligent 11-year-old with a photographic memory and cerebral palsy. She can’t walk or talk, but she is hungry to learn and eager for language to express herself.

Triad’s Special Education Webpage

Illinois State Board of Education – Special Education Programs

National PTA Special Education Toolkit

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