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5 Incredibly Useful Tips for Writing IEPs

IEPs are meant to help ensure the future success of a student by getting everyone on the same page through developmental data and suggested action items. When you write an IEP, you’re writing out the best way for an individual student to succeed throughout the school year. While it’s still up to each person on the learning team to do their job to achieve the best care for the student in their individual context, it’s up to you to guide everyone on a better path forward for the school year. How do you achieve this? 

1. Understand the importance of communication.

Communication in any matter is a crucial indicator of success or failure. Especially when it comes to working with a student who needs everyone to be on the same page, communication can make a difference in the outlook of their future success. A child who is having their education driven by an IEP specifically needs someone who is present and advocating for them. You can't advocate for what's best for that student if you don't know what's going on outside of your area of influence. Nowadays, because many IEP meetings and other interactions happen online or are postponed, communication is crucial to keep things as normal as possible for students.

There are multiple people with different influences on a student's life. You may not know what their home life is like, and you cannot change what's going on with their specialists or their daily experiences. But understanding those experiences can help you draft a viable IEP that will legitimately help the student. Even when you are not physically there for the student, like during the summer or school breaks, you can make sure that those who will be there for them are well-prepared. 

2. Don’t underestimate the family’s role.

A student’s family is around the student more than their teachers, and they have been for some time. Although you might be assigned to care for a student with a special education track throughout their school career to keep things as consistent for them as possible, the family has been with them for far longer than you have. Even in the case of IEPs that help students who are younger, the family is still there for them during the summer and during school breaks and has been there for the student’s whole life. Because of this, they are in a unique position to directly influence the student in a more impactful way than you as a teacher can. But you can influence how the family reacts to and interacts with students by defining clear roles and expectations that would benefit the student for the family to implement. By giving the family a guidebook in your IEP, you are ensuring that the student is always successful, even when you are not at school.

3. Listen to the student!

Believe it or not, the students themselves actually have a lot to say. When you are framing an IEP, you are creating something that is unique to that particular student, and because of that, listening to what they have to say is crucial. Beyond giving you valuable information that only a student has available, including the student in writing their IEP encourages participation for the student, which can connect them to the experience in a way that might not have been there before. Oftentimes, students can feel like an IEP or their education, in general, is out of their hands and is being decided for them without their input. It can improve their chances of success when students realize their input is welcomed and valued. Ask students questions, listen to their input, and value their approach. Make sure that students know that they have been heard and that you are listening to what they have to say. Even beyond the IEP, this will help students on their path to success and increase their chances for a more meaningful and cohesive education.

4. Present information clearly.

In all aspects of the IEP, information should be clear and presented in an easily comprehensible fashion that can be accessed and understood by everyone involved with the learning team. The narrative element of your IEP needs to tell a story that will help the student. Remember that any information that you include in the IEP is more than just simple data. This information is relating to the present and future education of a student that you are trying to help. Utilizing and including the data through this lens will make it more beneficial to the learning team.

5. Prepare students and the rest of the learning team for success. 

Even if it seems like the end is a long way away, prepare yourself, the learning team, and your students for success. With your goals, set an expectation for improvement and prepare for things to improve in the future. This will not only ensure the IEPs include the best-case scenarios, but it will also encourage students to believe that they will experience improvement with dedication and diligence.

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