In formulating an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for your child with a disability, a good Evaluation Team Report (ETR) is crucial. The ETR drives the IEP, which allows your child to succeed in their educational environment. The following are some tips on how to use that ETR as your guide throughout the IEP process.
Category of Eligibility Isn’t Everything: Sometimes, there is a lengthy discussion with the team as to which category of eligibility will be listed on the ETR to qualify the student for services. When the team doesn’t agree on the category, parents worry that the “wrong label” will prevent their child from getting the appropriate services. They assume that the category of disability on the ETR determines what services their child will receive; fortunately, that’s not true. For example, a student might qualify under specific learning disability but still have identified fine motor needs that can also be addressed in the IEP. There is no cookie-cutter IEP or one set of goals for each category of eligibility. Each child is unique and therefore has his own unique needs. The category of eligibility just gets them through the door toward an IEP. It’s the needs identified in the ETR that are going to drive the IEP, not the category.
Review that ETR: A good ETR will identify all of the student’s disability-related needs. Before the IEP meeting, you should go through that ETR with a highlighter marker and highlight all identified areas of need in the ETR. Bring this to your IEP meeting and use it as a guide to ensure that all needs in the ETR are addressed at that meeting. Let the ETR guide the process of constructing the IEP, so the goals and accommodations in the IEP are targeted to meet your child’s unique needs.
Goals vs. Accommodations: The needs identified in the ETR can be addressed in the IEP as either goals or accommodations. Goals provide for specialized instruction with measurable benchmarks and allow the team to use data to track the student’s progress. Accommodations are other supports or adaptations that the child needs to succeed, such as preferential seating, wide-lined paper, or extended time to complete assignments. Does she need access to a calculator (accommodation), or does she need small group, multi-sensory instruction by an intervention specialist (goal) to meet that math need? A good understanding of the student’s unique needs, learning styles, and preferences will guide the team in determining which method is appropriate to address the student’s needs.
Prioritize the Needs and Look at the Ultimate Goal: While all areas of need should be discussed by the IEP team, it’s not always necessary to address each one of them in the IEP itself. It’s okay for the team to choose to focus on the biggest issues and hold off on others, particularly when the child has multiple disabilities or an extensive set of needs to be addressed. For example, where an ETR identifies multiple needs in the areas of math, reading, writing, speech, and behavior, the team might decide to hold off on a handwriting goal in order to focus more time on the main issue, which is the student’s behavior. They’re making a well thought out trade-off to be sure that they’re not putting too much on the student in one IEP term. In another example, the team might decide not to spend OT time working on the student’s poor handwriting because, at her age, the teachers don’t require much handwritten work, and the student prefers the use of technology. Maybe they will decide to focus the OT time on a keyboarding goal rather than a handwriting goal. It’s about prioritizing, looking to the ultimate desired outcome, and making sure that there is enough time in the day to properly tackle all of the goals written into the IEP, without overwhelming the student or the staff.
Having a solid ETR is a great start! Just be sure to bring it with you and refer to it often as you write an IEP. You want that IEP to be targeted to meet your child’s unique needs, as identified in their ETR. Remember: The ETR drives the IEP.
This blog was written in collaboration with Intern Zoe Douglas.