What are tips for K-12 professionals writing IEPs/IFSPs for students who are deaf or hard of hearing?
Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and Individualized Family Service Plans (IFSPs) are documents developed by school personnel to help guide interventions for students in special education. Well-written IEPs and IFSPs for students who are deaf or hard of hearing (D/HH) can be used to effectively guide instruction and track academic progress. Both itinerant and classroom teachers can play important roles in developing these documents. However, it is often challenging to write quality IEPs/IFSPs for students with low incidence disabilities, such as those related to hearing. Former Master Teacher Sherry L. Landrud offers tips for writing IEPs/IFSPs for students who are deaf or hard of hearing which are summarized below.
- Include a description of how the hearing loss affects all areas of concern, parent input (from a phone interview, parent survey, etc.), formal and informal evaluations, and classroom observations.
- Describe adaptations of the evaluation procedures or test protocols due to the hearing loss.
- Include a thorough team interpretation of what the test scores and informal measures mean regarding the student’s hearing ability.
- Write specific Present Levels of Performances (PLEPs) and ensure they address all of the challenges the student is experiencing in the educational setting.
- Address all school-related needs arising from the hearing loss, not just in academic areas. You may address needs related to advocacy and compensatory skills (sensory or functional area on the IEP), socialization and maturity issues (social-emotional area on the IEP), and how the student uses the services of an educational interpreter or translator (functional area of the IEP).
- Reflect the student's progress during each IEP/IFSP cycle. If the student is not making progress on PLEPs, goals, and objectives from year to year, consider modifying them or selecting new curriculum strategies or methods. Writing goals and objectives incrementally may assist in more accurately articulating student progress on an annual basis. For example, PLEPs may need to include phrases such as "Given second grade reading vocabulary the student will…" and then the next year "Given third grade reading vocabulary the student will…" so that the student’s increased vocabulary skills are reflected annual reports.
- Use caution when adding another disability to a student’s IEP/IFSP. Carefully document how the hearing loss and the other disability specifically contribute to his or her behaviors.
- Ensure that the "Adaptations in General and Specific Education" section of the student’s IEP/IFSP reflects all of the adaptations that the student uses that are specific to his or her hearing needs (e.g. captioning, TTY access in the office, evacuation buddy on the school bus, FM daily monitoring packet and cleaning kits located in the nurse’s office, static guards and patch cords for the cochlear implant, home-to-school communication notebook, weekly emails to parents).
- Keep weekly records that document the student’s IEP progress. If the student is NOT making meaningful progress, analyze data and make adjustments in teaching and modifications to the student’s IEP/IFSP as appropriate.
- Include PLEPs, needs, goals, and objectives related to how the student uses the services of an educational interpreter.
- Accurately reflect the amount of time spent in the areas of direct and indirect services. "Direct services" are typically face-to-face time with the student, in a pullout session or in the classroom when direct instruction is given. "Indirect services" on the IEP/IFSP may include teacher or staff in-services, classroom in-services, equipment in-service or training, observations, meetings with the educational team, transition meetings, curriculum modifications or adaptations, parent communication, and advocacy on behalf of the student or the parent with team members.
- Record controversy within the educational team objectively. For example, if the team has discussed other communication modalities, educational placements, or controversial issues, document these conversations objectively as part of the student's record.