A DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF IEP PRESENT LEVELS
Present levels in an IEP should detail who the child is, what they are capable of, what they are working on, how they are motivated, and things they enjoy doing.
Think of it this way, if your child had to up and go to a new school without time for a lengthy transition – would their IEP have enough information for their new team to gain a rough understanding of what makes your child unique?
When it comes to present levels, as far as I’m concerned, the more information the better! I think of it as an opportunity to capture that student’s personality and successes.
There is a great quote, “If you know one child with Autism, you know one child with Autism.” I try as much as possible to keep this in mind when drafting the present levels in a child’s IEP, because I always want to remember to make this section personal and informative.
Many IEPs will include a brief introduction and synopsis of the student’s background. This can include where they were born, which schools or districts the child has attended, date of diagnosis, and any pivotal life moments.
STRENGTHS / PREFERENCES / INTERESTS
This is where I like to include a large chunk of my description. It’s the perfect opportunity to share what the student’s favorite items are, what they enjoy doing, things they are interested in, and how their daily schedule usually looks.
If the child has any great strengths or detailed interests, make sure it’s here!
If your child will work for plastic bugs with glittery wings, make sure it’s here!
The more detailed, the better.
One year, I was given six new students that I had never met before. Thankfully, their previous teacher had included all of the items these students enjoyed playing with in their IEPs! I made sure to hit up the local Target, and have everything ready for them on the first day of school. Hopefully this made it as smooth of a transition as possible for all of my kiddos.
Another example is when I found out that one of my student’s could draw detailed pictures of over 500 anime characters from memory, and would work for ‘drawing time.’ Before that student entered my classroom, I made sure to pay a visit to our amazing art teacher and stock up on some quality drawing materials.
You get the idea.
Make sure it summarizes your child as effectively as possible!
There should be a section of the IEP dedicated to any concerns you may have, and they should all be documented.
STANDARDIZED TEST SCORES
If your child has been given standardized tests, any applicable scores should be documented. If not, it should also be documented that your child has not taken the tests listed, and why.
PRE-ACADEMIC / ACADEMIC / FUNCTIONAL SKILLS
This part of the IEP outlines the academic and/or functional skills your child possesses, as well as what areas they are currently working on.
I usually break this section up into: reading, reading comprehension, writing, math, and functional skills.
However, it does depend on the student.
For instance, several of my students are currently working on pre-academic goals and not necessarily direct math goals. I would document the areas they are working on, and all successes the child has had throughout the year.
As always, the more information the better!
If your child can read an entire paragraph independently, as long as they use a ruler to keep them on the correct line, make sure it’s in there!
Or, if your child can add single digit numbers when they are presented vertically, but not horizontally, have it in there!
With many of our kids, it’s the little details that matter most, and including these details can help a new team member better understand the intricacies that make up your child’s personality and skill set.
If your child has a Speech Therapist, make sure that they have included an update in this area. The Special Education teacher should also include any important information involving the student’s communication.
Has your child recently been evaluated for an assistive technology device?
Have they begun saying any new words, or signing new signs?
Do they use PECS, or have a system of communication in place to assist them?
Or, do they have any particular words/sign/ways of communicating various feelings/requests that are individual to them?
Your child’s IEP should be tailored specifically for them, and the more detailed the information provided, the better.
Noticing a trend yet? ; )
Consider everything that is involved in whole communication, and where your child is at the present time. If you think that something is important, and would like all of the IEP team to know, ask that it be included. If your child can say “Ba-Ro” as an approximation for bathroom, or if they often interchange the sign for ‘help’ with ‘please’ – put it in there.
As we all know, effective communication increases a student’s self-esteem, self-worth, and independence. By understanding how a child communicates, we are acknowledging them as an individual and respecting their needs.
However, many of our children with Autism have large difficulties communicating their needs, wants, and ideas! Therefore, it is our responsibility to assure that we make it as easy as possible to understand what it is our students are trying to communicate. We can do this by sharing knowledge with the entire team, and documenting intricacies that we find in your child’s communication skills.
Even if your child’s IEP team has been working together for years, it is always a good idea to document everything in a formal manner. IEPs are referenced regularly (or should be!) in the school setting, and having these personalized tid-bits of information in there is a great reminder to those working with your child.
An OT may review your child’s IEP, and remember that they have been working with the Speech Therapist on signing new words; Then because of this, they can strategically incorporate specific exercises which can help your child with those words. It’s not only the teacher and Speech Specialist that can benefit from communication information!
GROSS / FINE MOTOR DEVELOPMENT
If your child is receiving Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, or Adaptive Physical Education – make sure that these specialists have included information on the student’s present abilities in this section.
This can include anything from your child being able to use a pincer grip with the assistance of a triangle grip, to your child’s great success at walking on a balance beam. If it’s a physical skill that you believe is important, or that your child has been working on, ask for it to be in the IEP.
SOCIAL / EMOTIONAL / BEHAVIOR
If your child is receiving services from a Behavioral Specialist or School Psychologist, ask that they include information on the student’s present levels in this section.
I always make sure to touch upon each of these categories at meetings, as they are incredibly important for our students with Autism, and often an area in need of great assistance. Every little success in this area deserves recognition, and is a great source of joy.
Does your child use a token board coupled with a visual schedule throughout his/her day? Have they had particular trouble taking turns during board games, but are OK if there is a visual prompt involved? Perhaps they use colors to describe particular feelings?
Details help, and the more shared information, the greater the understanding your team will have of your child.
If your child has any particular skills that you find important, or if they are currently working on any skill sets in this area- make sure it’s written down in their IEP! Honestly, while it may seem as though there is a lot of information being included, it does nothing but help ensure that everyone on your child’s team is receiving a complete picture of what makes your child unique.
Lastly, if your child has any recurring behaviors, make sure they are defined and stated either in this section or in a behavior report. This is especially true if they engage in any particular maladaptive behaviors which can hurt themselves or others.
This area of a child’s IEP can be particularly important if they are an adolescent.
Beginning in middle school, I always like to include the parents/guardians in a talk where we review what life goals you may have for your child. Do you want your child to work in a particular area? Do they have any skill sets you would absolutely like to have them work on? What interests your child most?
It is never too early to begin learning vocational skills which can help your child in the future.
This is also a time to think outside the box! Maybe your child loves using computers and typing, or perhaps they are really great at alphabetizing and ordering. Those are two both different skills that can be built upon as they get older. You know your child best, and there are jobs in almost every realm of life that can be adapted to suit your child’s level; It’s a matter of preparation, assistance, and adaptation.
I’m a firm believer that beginning in middle school, we can start students on a path which will help set them up for a successful adult life. This is a time when we must begin teaching our students independent life skills that they will then take into the community. This can be anything from crossing a street and working on community signs, to reading a bus map and navigating a supermarket.
It’s a time to assess your child’s skills, and build on them in a manner that establishes independence.
ADAPTIVE / DAILY LIVING SKILLS
This section details the living skills which your child both possesses and has been working on. I usually like to input current information about toileting, eating, food preparation, and transitioning. Then, I’ll list areas and goals that we have been working on with your child.
This is always a superb time to ensure that there’s a conversation going around the meeting where every service provider can add in areas they think the student is improving in, as well as ways they can ensure success. It’s important that there is an agreement on skill sets and strategies for your child.
I keep health histories from previous IEPs included in current IEPs. Although this isn’t necessary, I do believe that it helps all team members remember what your child has been through, issues they may have surpassed, and how far your child has come along.
It’s also important that every member of your child’s IEP team has an up to date reflection of your child’s health to ensure that services are being provided in the most beneficial manner.
Remember to share information concerning previous and recent doctors visits, health screenings, medical exams and results, and any pertinent health information from the last year.
There you have it!
I really hope this helped clarify what information to provide for present levels on an IEP, as well as give you some insight into the process of developing an IEP.
Have any questions? Leave them in the comments!
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