What’s in your IEP? (Individual Education Plan)

Most children with a diagnosis of any kind are provided an
Individualized Education Plan or IEP to help with school.

So what exactly is an IEP?
How do you read it?
And what input can you provide as a parent?

To start, an IEP is a formal education plan written by school professionals that outline how your child will receive support during their school day.

There are 6 major sections included: 

1. Present Levels: The child’s current skill levels in multiple areas are explained in this section. This is also where assessment data is reviewed.
These assessments can get very technical and are mainly for other professionals to read. The most important information to understand is the age equivalences and where the child is compared to the “average” score. This is where “below average”, “average”, or “above average” is determined. 

2. Parent/Student Input: Parental insights are recorded in this section. It is important to review this section carefully before it becomes an official document. Parents must make sure to communicate any concerns or requirements they wish to be considered. This may include behavior tendencies, coping skills or preferred activities!

3. Annual Goals: Here, the goals for each professional working with the child are listed. Teachers, psychologists, speech, OT, ABA, and other therapists should all be included.

Typically there are a couple of goals from each person working with the child. These goals must be specific and feasible to achieve throughout the year. 

A good goal will have a measurable skill to be learned within a specified time. Our good example gives us very specific criteria for determining a mastered task.

A bad goal will have a broad skill with no mention of when the goal should be achieved. Our bad example is too broad and does not provide an outline for the necessary consistency with the skill of addition.

4. Accommodations and Modifications: In this section, all the in-classroom tools the child needs should be listed. These cannot get too detailed, but you do want to make sure each one is listed. When the team trains the next classroom, they can detail the accommodations for them outside of the IEP.

5. State and District Assessments: Most children will not need to participate in state testing. For those who are eligible, necessary accommodations should be listed here.

6. Service Delivery Statement: In this section, each person who works with the child will indicate how many minutes in a set time period they will provide services. Many times speech and OT services have limited time slots and recommend 30-60 minutes per week. 

Most importantly, we always recommend having the IEP reviewed by a professional on the child’s team before signing. It is not required to sign the IEP on the spot.

Colorado ABA Therapy is always available to help with these revisions! Take the necessary time to review it and get feedback from other professionals before making it a legal document. 

We recommend reaching out to your BCBA if you have any questions or concerns about your current or future IEP. 

The ABC’s of Behavior

Why?

This is the number one question parents ask in the field of ABA.

Why is she acting this way? 

Why is he hitting his friends? 

Why won’t he stop screaming?

All behavior follows a predictable pattern when using the right roadmap. Our roadmap in ABA is written using the acronym ABC: 

Identifying the ABCs in our everyday lives:

1. Antecedent

These are the triggers that cause behaviors. Parents can usually pick out this part of the roadmap pretty easily: 

Every time my child is asked to share he…
Every time I tell her to clean her room she…

More often than not, antecedents can be observed right before the behavior occurs. Understanding this section of the ABCs will help us better identify when behaviors happen.

2. Behavior

This may be the easiest one to identify. This is the stand out action and main focus of what we want to influence in the child. Behaviors include crying, screaming, punching, and fidgeting. It is also important to identify appropriate behaviors that we wish to encourage. This can include following directions, sharing, kind words, and manners.

3. Consequences

Consequences can take a little bit of self-awareness to recognize. This happens directly after the behavior. When a child is screaming, crying, or hitting, what is our natural response? How we react to behaviors can show us the consequences we impose.

Consequences can also tell us what the child wants from engaging in the behavior. This could be attention from you, access to an item, escape from an activity or person, or simply because it feels good.

When looking at this roadmap, you may be surprised at what you find!

Let’s look at a few examples!

In this scenario, Julia is alone and wants her mother’s attention. Since Julia does not have her mother’s attention, she decides to implement a behavior (throwing her toy) as a response to her lonely play time. Julia’s mother then comes over to play with her. Julia now has her mother’s attention and will no longer throw the toy.

But here’s the catch!

We know that consequences will either encourage or discourage certain behaviors in the future. In this example, the consequence (Julia’s mother coming over to play) encouraged the behavior (Julia throwing the toy) to occur again!

Next time Julia wants attention, she will be more likely to throw a toy again in order to receive it, since this method has worked for her in the past.

So, what do we do?

In general terms, we prompt! Every case is unique and will have their own intricacies pertaining to behavior severity and the child’s skill level. But with all else being neutral, we can prompt Julia to appropriately ask her mother to play with her. Once Julia asks appropriately, her mother can honor her request by playing with her.

Our new ABC chart will add the prompt component, and look like this:

By prompting this behavior, we are reinforcing appropriate requests for play rather than the throwing of a toy. This will increase the likelihood of appropriate behavior in the future!

Let’s look at another example!

In this instance we see the antecedent, behavior, and consequence working together in a positive way! Mike is asked to do his homework and his appropriate response is to complete it. The consequence for his behavior is access to video games for 45 minutes.

Assuming Mike loves video games, we can infer that the consequence (45 minutes of video games) will encourage the behavior (completing his homework) in the future!

In summary, understanding behaviors will help us identify the antecedents (triggers) and consequences (how we responded) in our everyday actions. We encourage you to take notes on the ABCs of behavior for your child!

Once you find the patterns, ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Can I prepare my child for triggers that are about to happen?
  • Can I prevent/change the triggers in any way to reduce behaviors?
  • Can I help my child get what they want in another way? 
  • How are my own behaviors contributing to my child’s behaviors?