Illuminating the IEP, Part Two: The Components of an Individualized Education Program Meeting

Two adult teachers with a young child writing with an instrument in a school classroom
Two adult teachers with a young child writing with an instrument in a school classroom

In “Illuminating the IEP, Part One”, Ms. Carlton Anne Cook Walker communicated the purpose of an Individualized Education Program (IEP), reminding us that the “IEP” is designed to set forth the way a school will meet the educational and disability-related needs of the child

If your school-age child has one or more disabilities including blindness or visual impairment, an appropriate education may include: 

  • The general education curriculum 
  • Disability-related instruction (including the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC), the subjects and skills that students who are visually impaired are taught to enable them to study the basic educational curriculum along with their sighted classmates.) 
  • Accommodations/ modifications (Note: accommodations provide access to instruction, materials, testing, technology, and to the environment; modifications “modify the standard”, reducing the workload for the student.) 
  • Related services 
  • Tools/ equipment to access the curriculum 
  • Preparation for post-school goals 

In order to devise a plan for an appropriate, individualized education, your child’s entire educational team should gather at an “IEP meeting” to discuss your child’s strengths, abilities, needs, and the results of key assessments including a Functional Vision Assessment, Learning Media Assessment, Orientation and Mobility Assessment, Assistive Technology Assessment, and an assessment documenting the present levels of performance within the nine domains of the ECC. Based on the information gathered, the team will develop and draft the legally-binding education plan on at least an annual basis. 

Let’s look at the specific components of an IEP meeting. 

The following will be discussed and documented:  

  • Present levels  
  • Your child’s present levels of educational and functional performance  
  • Goals 
  • Measurable annual goals 
  • Other needs 
  • Supports for school personnel  
  • Timing, frequency, and location of services  
  • Extent, if any, to which your child will not participate with nondisabled children  
  • Testing accommodations 
  • How progress will be measured and how the child’s parents will be regularly informed 

Check out Individualized Education Program (IEP) Advice for Parents of Blind Children for a thorough explanation of the specific components. 

I spoke with two advocates who suggest additional elements to incorporate at the IEP meeting.                                                                                     

Lisa Lloyd, parent of a daughter who is blind, suggests beginning the meeting with full introductions, stating, “Perhaps it sounds trivial, but our daughter has had as many as 23 people in one IEP team meeting, so it’s really important for her to know who is at the meeting because she doesn’t see everybody who is there, whether or not we are in person, or in a Google Meet, or Zoom meeting. It also helps us, as the parents, to put a face/voice to the name of the individuals working with our daughter when she’s at school each day. Especially these days with Covid and distance learning, several of these folks we may never meet in person; they are contracted with our school district but provide services from other schools, or even from out of state, like speech therapists.  Also, because we tend to invite others to the IEP meeting that the rest of the team may not know (our children’s advocate, the assistive technology training specialist we’ve hired, her social worker, her DOR counselor, specialized tutors, educational therapists, IEE personnel etc.), introductions help the school-based personnel understand who her ‘home team’ is and what they provide our daughter.” 

Carlton Anne Cook Walker, BEAR-Blindness Education and Advocacy Resources, Teacher of Students with Blindness/Low Vision, President of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, and parent of a child who is blind, recommends communicating the intent of the Individualized Educational Program (IEP), stating, “At the outset, I think it is important to set forth the purpose of the IEP. Knowing this purpose helps guide the IEP process and keeps expectations high and focuses all team members (including educators and administrators) focused on the student’s academic and disability-related needs.” 

Lastly, Ms. Lloyd recommends wrapping up each IEP meeting, “asking for time frames of who will do what by when. [It] keeps things rolling and keeps team members accountable. Of course, we have learned that’s not always enough, but we try!” 

One last piece of advice for in-between IEP meetings 

Ms. Lloyd shares, “If there is one thing distance learning taught us parents, it was how important it is for there to be ongoing conversations about access, not just at IEP team meetings but in-between them. How will the (blind) student access the material presented in each of their classes, be it mainstream classes and/or SDC’s [Special Day Classes]? Who will ensure that all videos assigned have audio description and what happens if they don’t have it?” 

Parents, your voice matters. When you understand your child’s right to a free and appropriate education, you can advocate for it both at and in between IEP meetings. 

Additional Resources: 

Learn More:  

If you are looking for more information on navigating the IEP process for your child who has a visual impairment, please join Carlton Anne Cook Walker and Lisa Lloyd on Saturday, February 12th at 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM (Eastern) for “Navigating the Individualized Education Program (IEP) Process”   Register HERE.