A preschool Individualized Education Program (IEP) sets out the services and supports necessary for your preschool-age child to learn. Yet it contains much more than a list of services that will be delivered to your child. It is designed to be the go-to document for educators working with your child to learn about your child’s abilities and needs and how to help. It provides a roadmap for teachers and staff working with your child and also holds them accountable for your child’s progress.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that certain information be included in every child’s IEP. To help IEP teams include all the required information, most states have developed a model IEP form. Some states, including Pennsylvania, use the same form for 0 to 3 Early Intervention and Preschool – called the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP).
The beginning of the IEP specifies the name of the student and contact information for the student’s family. Generally, a list of the IEP team members is also included at the beginning of the document. The following additional information must also be included somewhere in the preschool IEP:
Present levels of performance (PLOP) (also known in some areas as present levels of educational performance or “PLEP”):
The present levels of performance section is the foundation for the IEP. It states where your child is in terms of academic, social, and emotional development. Your child’s strengths and weaknesses should be detailed using direct and observable measures of academic achievement and functional performance based on grades, test scores, and other data. For example, for preschool children, information about progress towards learning colors, shapes, numbers, and letters should be included. In addition to academic data, information about self-care abilities and behavior should be included. This section should include a summary of the information contained in your child’s Evaluation Report, making that information available to all teachers and staff who work with your child, not just those who were part of the evaluation team. If your child has had private evaluations, those results should be included in this section.
Annual goals and objectives:
This section includes academic and functional activities, behaviors, and skills which have been prioritized for your child to work on during the school year. Goals should be set for each area of need as determined by your child’s Evaluation Report, for example, social, behavioral, self-help, and communication goals, in addition to academic ones. The goals should be written to be completed in one year. For some children, short term objectives and benchmarks, which are designed to track short-term achievements, are also included in this section, though they are not required for preschool-age children. The goals must be measureable. You and the IEP team must be able to know when your child has reached the goal.
Description of how progress will be measured and reported:
The IEP must always include a description of how your child’s progress toward meeting the annual goals will be measured, for example, through observation, standardized testing, or informal assessments. The IEP must also specify when you will be given periodic reports on progress towards annual goals. For example, the team may require periodic progress reports on IEP goals concurrent with the issuance of report cards. The process of tracking a student’s performance to see if the student is on track to meet IEP goals is called “progress monitoring.”
Description of services and accommodations:
This section contains a description of services needed by your child and accommodations necessary for your child to be successful at school. Services may include specialized services delivered by experts in a particular field, such as speech-language services, occupational therapy, physical therapy, or behavioral support, or services needed for your child to access the curriculum, for example transportation. Accommodations are designed to minimize obstacles to learning or participating in the educational environment. They are always individualized according to each student’s needs. Examples include preferential seating, use of a squeeze toy to minimize fidgeting, a picture schedule, or a communication book to go between home and school. Supports for school personnel may also be included. These are supports given to teachers or other professionals at the school to help them work with your child, and may include additional training or an extra block of free time to prepare alternate materials or assessments or to hold co-planning or team meetings. The IEP must also state when services will begin and must specifically describe the anticipated frequency, location, and duration of each.
Extended School Year determination:
Special education services are suspended during weekends and school holidays and breaks, unless the IEP team determines that they are needed at these times. The provision of services during weekends and breaks is called Extended School Year or ESY. The IEP team must consider if your child needs services outside the normal school year at each IEP meeting. Each state has its own regulations for how a student qualifies for ESY services, but in general, students who are at risk for losing skills may qualify if data suggests that breaks from educational services have led to behavior or academic problems. Your child’s IEP must specify whether or not your child qualifies for ESY, and if so, the goals to be worked on and the services and supports which will be provided.
Placement decisions can be some of the most emotionally charged ones in the IEP process. IEP team members frequently come to the IEP team meeting with already formed ideas about where the child should be educated. Some team members may feel very strongly that all children with disabilities should be educated in a regular education classroom. Others believe that specialized schools are better equipped to provide for students with disabilities. IDEA is clear that students should be educated in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) in which the student can make progress towards the goals set in the IEP. Your child’s IEP will specify where your child will receive services, the reason for this placement, and the extent to which your child will participate with children without disabilities.
When a child is one year away from becoming eligible for school-age services, the IEP must include a transition plan that details steps to prepare your child for school-age services, including activities to help him or her adjust to a new setting. The plan should include how and when information will be shared between the current preschool service provider and the school district which will offer services the following school year. It will also include a transition meeting between the preschool, school district, and family. In Pennsylvania and many states, this transition meeting must occur by the end of the February before the child becomes eligible for kindergarten.
In addition to the sections above, your child’s IEP may also include a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) and Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP). FBAs and BIPs are not mandatory for all students receiving special education, but they are very common for children on the autism spectrum.
- IFSPs in Pennsylvania
- Who Writes the Preschool IEP?
- Evaluations for Preschool Special Education
- Items to Consider When Drafting IEP Goals and Customizing Supports for Preschool Students with ASD
- Accommodations and Supports for Preschool Students with ASD
- Speech, Language and Communication
- Functional Skills
- Occupational Therapy for Children with ASD
- The Role of the Pediatric Physical Therapist for Children with ASD
- Behavior Intervention Plan
- Supports for School Personnel
- Extended School Year in Pennsylvania
- Placement Options for Preschool Students Receiving Special Education
- Transition from Preschool to School-Age Services