IEP Process: Service Options and Placement

9 May

This is it.  The end of the IEP line. 

Actually, I could go on forever, but I feel like I've been going on forever as it is.  One of the other LEAs has pneumonia, so I'm having to pick up her IEPs.  This in addition to having to write my own, which I like to get out 2 days before the meeting.

After looking at all the information, including goals, PLOP, accommodations, transition plan and BIP, then we consider the options for services.  And there is a good reason for doing it this way as illustrated by comments by Coach Brown and Reflective Teacher on my post about accommodations.  If a parent demands accommodations to the point where they become modifications, a more restrictive placement should be considered.  And there is a continuum of services and placements offered within special education.

The "Least Restrictive Environment" or LRE part of IDEA is probably the most contentious of the entire IEP process.  This is going to determine where the student is going to be served, and everyone begins the IEP with some idea as to where that should be.  But according to the process, it really shouldn't be decided until the end, based on all of the supporting data and evidence.

So what are the placement options?  From least-to-most:

-Regular education with no special education support: This is the least restrictive at all and generally one might see this right before a student is discharged from special ed.

– Regular education with special ed. consultative services: Basically, the student is on their own, but a special ed. teacher will check on them and monitor progress and offer suggestions for the regular ed. teachers as well as follow up on accommodations.

– Regular education with special education resource: The student will spend most of their time in regular education but may be pulled out an hour or two for special education services.  This includes speech language, hearing and vision services as well as academic support. 

-Regular education with Collaborative services:  Sometimes this is called co-teaching or team teaching.  Basically this is most likely to be offered in a class that has several special needs students and there is a regular teacher and special education teacher in the same room.  Both are technically serving all of the students, but the special ed teacher is primarily responsible for implementing accommodations, modifications and strategies for the special ed group.  

– Regular education with para support: It's arguable whether this is more or less restrictive than collaborative services.  However these paras tend to be "helicopter paras" that hover over the one or two students assigned to them, therefore I count it as a more restrictive setting.

– Special education self-contained with regular education electives.  The student will spend most of their time in a special education setting, but will go out to some elective classes like art, music or P.E.

– Special education self-contained:  This is where the student spends all of their time in special education.  However this does not mean they are in the same class with the same teacher all day.  It simply means their services are being delivered by special education personnel. 

– A special school or facility:
Georgia has a psychoed network for student with severe emotional behavior disabilities.  Several states also have special schools for the deaf and blind.  And there are still a few residential placements around, but these are becoming increasingly rare.

There are also a variety of other services to be considered such as PT, OT, speech, vision, hearing, adaptive PE and special transportation.  Yes, the short bus is sometimes considered a service option.  Health services, adaptive technology and nutritional services are also  services I have listed and used in the past.  These services will either be direct services or indirect.  Indirect services are consultative, where the OT or PT or whoever comes once a month or so and consults with the teacher about any issues or needs.  I have heard of some students getting counseling or mental health services, but this is not very common around these parts.  What passes for school counseling nowadays is not what I would consider very good.  These counselors are not really proper therapists compared to what is in the private sector.  They can listen and offer some wise guidance, but they usually have other administrative duties in addition to their counseling functions.  But I would welcome input from any readers more familiar with the school counseling field.  School psychologist are devoted almost exclusively to testing and evaluation, leaving intervention to others.

In considering options, I generally list all options the student has had previously and then maybe one that is the next least restrictive.  It is useful to talk to parents to get a feel for what they are thinking in advance, and I will keep saying that advance drafts of the IEP need to be available to parents before the meeting.

Pretty much everything I've discussed before this point could have/should have been written and prepared in advance of the meeting.  The stuff is written or typed beforehand and is reviewed during the IEP.  Parents, I would encourage you, a week prior to the meeting, to ask that anything written in advance of the meeting be made available to you at least the day before.  This is why so many parents are so dazed, confused and angry at these things.  They show up, get all of these things shoved on them and are then expected to make a decision then and there regarding their child's future.

Service options that are considered can be written in advance.  Options rejected and accepted can NOT be done in advance of the meeting.  EVER.  That is supposed to be a committee decision, and if that is filled out beforehand, the school could get in a world of hurt. 

Parental involvement and participation are mandated by both NCLB and IDEA.  Spend time getting parents' thoughts and feelings beforehand.  Help them prepare for their meeting, if you can. 

As parents, being prepared is the best defense against misunderstanding.  And really, over the long haul, it falls on the parents to assert their rights.  And sometimes that means raising some hell.  Inviting an advocate is almost always a good idea.  If there is the slightest chance of misunderstanding or suspicion, don't go to the meeting alone.  Bring your spouse or a friend.  Having said that, don't show up with an attorney for the very first meeting.  If that happens, our instructions as teachers are very clear: shut down the meeting immediately, and inform the county office so that they can invite the school attorney and reschedule.

Suppose you go to the IEP, they go through it all, you agree to everything, you sign it and then walk out with an uneasy feeling.  You begin to wonder if you did the right thing.  As a parent, you have the right to call for an IEP at anytime.  But first talk to the case manager or write them a note expressing your concerns.   It is in their best interest to make sure you are a satisfied customer.  We all hate these things, and the teacher who has a dissatisfied and motivated parent has a real problem on their hands.  On the other hand, a satisfied and motivated parent can do wonders.  I've gotten extra needed help and needed renovations thanks to parents who were willing to complain and advocate.

There a group of parents that will probably not read this.  Ever.  If I write about parents, I'm talking about those that are very involved (sometimes to a fault).  But there are some who have very little involvement at all.  They never come to IEP meetings and sometimes not even a manifestation hearing.  They simply allow the system to do whatever it wishes.  That's not to say I'm not going to do right by those students, but there is an impact a parent can have simply by meeting with a teacher that can pay grreat dividends  Right or wrong, when a parent tells me they intend to attend an IEP, they go to the head of the line in the preparation process.  Those that say they are not coming still get an IEP, but they are simply demanding less diligence on my part.

Okay, hopefully you have some better background on this IEP business.  Now, if you don't mind, I need to get busy writing some of my own!


4 Responses to “IEP Process: Service Options and Placement”

  1. Donna October 22, 2008 at 5:33 pm #

    Regarding your comment:

    “Service options that are considered can be written in advance. Options rejected and accepted can NOT be done in advance of the meeting. EVER. That is supposed to be a committee decision, and if that is filled out beforehand, the school could get in a world of hurt.”

    In our recent IEP meeting, my child’s speech therapist brought in her written assessment recommending speech services be discontinued as my daughter had received “maximum benefit” based on a lack of developmental gains and poor improvement in her testing. I am sure they cannot do this, but I would like to know if there is a section in the regulations I can refer to in making my case to the school. Can you elaborate on this?

    Thanks for your IEP series. It is very informative.

  2. Daniel Dage October 22, 2008 at 7:54 pm #

    Actually, Donna, any member of the team can recommend anything they want as part of their assessment. Of course, that does not make it a done deal. In fact I have been in many meetings where the recommendation was overturned or ignored by the team in light of a parent’s concern. For students with very severe or profound disabilities, it is not unusual for them to be dropped from services because of a severe or profound the disability that limits their benefit. I’m not saying I agree with it, but it is the school system’s way of trying to get more for their limited resources. You will encounter the exact same thing if you try to get Medicaid funding for private speech services.

    As a compromise, the therapist will usually offer consultative services for the teacher, as the expertise of the therapist is not the critical factor in your daughter’s development. She can still benefit from communication training but progress is more contingent upon maximizing trials, response and reinforcement. That means everyday, all day. I’ll wager anything that you weren’t getting that from any SLP EVER! As a parent, you are still the most critical factor in your daughter’s life and learning. If you think the reluctant SLP can help her, you certainly do have the right to press for continued services. In this case, the SLP was simply putting “discontinue speech services” as an option to consider. However, they can not accept or reject it until the meeting. I can see where treating that recommendation as a done deal would make you angry and with good reason.

    You have the right to get an independent assessment (at the district’s expense) if you do not agree with the district SLP’s assessment. If the independent SLP does not agree with the district, you have more of a case to go to due process. However, if the independent SLP agrees with the district then, yeah, it is more of a done deal as the district’s case is strengthened. Good luck and thanks for commenting!

  3. Donna October 22, 2008 at 10:00 pm #

    Some very good information here to consider. I believe your comment regarding the school’s resources is the underlying factor here. A teacher indicated they try to remove support services from children reaching the transition stage. A local advocate I spoke to indicated that was not appropriate. We also pay for private speech for our daughter and will certainly enlist her opinions and assessments at this point.

    Thank you very much for your reply.


  1. Education And Training Services - November 12, 2006


    Interesting topic… I’m working in this industry myself and I don’t agree about this in 100%, but I added your page to my bookmarks and hope to see more interesting articles in the future

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