Future Reflections Convention Report 1997, Vol. 16 No. 3

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IEP's: Updates, Tips, and Strategies

Editor's Note: Many readers and members of our parent divisions have asked me to beef up the information we share about IEP's and the IEP process. Some have asked me if we could do "model" IEP's for certain age groups. Others have asked me to discuss handling difficult IEP situations. And yet others wanted more details about how to write IEP goals for important, but unusual (to the schools, anyway) skills such as self-advocacy. This seemed like a reasonable request, so here is the first run of what I hope will become a regular feature in Future Reflections:

IEP Goals and Objectives for Self-Advocacy

by Doris M. Willoughby

Introduction: Mrs. Willoughby has many years of experience in writing and implementing IEP's as a teacher of blind and visually impaired children. She is also the renowned co-author of the Handbook for Itinerant and Resource Teachers of Blind and Visually Impaired Students, published and distributed by the National Federation of the Blind. The following goals and objectives are samples of those she has used for years with her blind students. Please note that when "teacher" is used without any other designation, it refers to the specialized teacher of the blind and visually impaired.

Preschool through Primary Grades

Goal: The student will begin to explain his/her needs and methods, and begin to obtain his/her own materials.

Objective: Given materials and equipment readily accessible to the student (e.g. Braille paper), the student will have them ready when needed 85% of the time as recorded by a checklist.

Objective: In a situation which the student does not know how to handle (e.g., not finding a needed book despite a reasonable effort), he/she will ask for help in an appropriate manner 85% of the time as measured by teacher observation. Objective: With assistance from a familiar person, the student will help to explain his/her methods upon request, to the satisfaction of the teacher.

Objective: Given a situation (real or contrived) in which someone is offering help which is clearly unnecessary, the student will state that he/she is able to do the task without help 85% of the time as measured by teacher observation.

Fourth through Ninth Grades

Goal: The student will take increasing responsibility for explaining his/her methods, obtaining materials, and making arrangements.

Objective: Given a familiar type of task or situation, the student will select appropriate methods and materials and explain them as necessary 85% of the time as measured by teacher observation.

Objective: Given a new type of situation with which he/she has no prior experience, the student will ask for help if needed, assertively suggest ideas, and decide how to handle the situation in the future 85% of the time as measured by teacher and parent observation.

Objective: Given the periodic IEP reviews and conferences, the student will assertively participate in an age-appropriate manner 85% of the time as measured by teacher and parent observation.

Objective: With assistance by a knowledgeable adult, and given an interested group of six or more people, the student will explain methods used by blind persons in a satisfactory manner as observed by the assisting adult.

Tenth through Twelfth Grades

Goal: The student will take responsibility for his/her own arrangements and materials, seeking out advice and help as necessary.

Objective: Using the appropriate forms provided by the itinerant teacher, the student will obtain information about books and materials needed for each semester/school year and place orders for the items and/or orders for transcription or recording, if needed, with 85% accuracy and timeliness as recorded by the teacher.

Objective: Given a person asking about the student's sight, the student will give an appropriate answer (or decline to answer, if that is appropriate) 85% of the time as measured by teacher and parent observation.

Objective: Given a task or situation with which he/she has no prior experience, the student will obtain information and decide how to proceed with satisfactory results 85% of the time as measured by teacher and parent observation.

Objective: Given a description of a problem of public misconceptions about blindness, the student will discuss it in a mature way and suggest ways to minimize the problem 85% of the time as measured by teacher and parent observation. Objective: When a teacher or a class subject is new to the student, he/she will discuss methods with the classroom teacher before class starts in a satisfactory manner as observed by his/her teacher.

IEP Updates:

The U.S. Department of Education has issued proposed rules (regulations) for the implementation of the IDEA Amendments of 1997 and are now seeking public comments on these proposed rules. IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, is the law which establishes and regulates the IEP process. The rules governing the new amendments to the law will have an impact on how well the IEP process will work. It is important, then, that we—parents and teachers—examine the new rules carefully and send in comments. The entire text of the notice—consisting of a preamble, the proposed rules themselves (34 CFR parts 300, 301, and 303), and an appendix to part 300=FEcan be found electronically at the following world wide web address [www.nfb.org] under the "Laws and Regulations" heading. The proposed rules to implement IDEA 1997 are on the world wide web (see address in box at bottom of this page).

The National Organization of Parents of Blind Children and the National Federation of the Blind have examined the provisions and proposed rules which impact blind and visually impaired children and will submit comments which will include several recommendations. These are:

(a) The NOPBC recommends that consistent language be used when referring to blind or visually impaired children. The law currently uses the phrases "visual impairment including blindness"—section 300.7(b)--and "blind or visually impaired"—section 300.346(a)(2)(iii) and section 300.22(b)(6). We propose that to eliminate confusion, and to be consistent with nearly 30 state Braille literacy laws, that the phrase "blind or visually impaired" be adopted and that the phrase "visual impairment including blindness" be eliminated.=20

(b) The NOPBC recommends that a note of explanation be added to the section regarding the provision of Braille instruction— section 300.346(a)(2). The note should emphasize that "provide" means "provide." That is, it is assumed that these children will receive Braille instruction and that rare exemptions will be allowed only when appropriate reading and writing assessments, including an assessment of the child's future needs for instruction in Braille or the use of Braille, determines that Braille is not needed. It should be emphasized that when there is disagreement or while an assessment is being ordered that Braille instruction shall be the default during the interim. There should also be another note explaining that Braille instruction cannot be denied because other reading and writing media (that is, print or tapes) are also appropriate.

(c) NOPBC commends the department for efforts to insure that the highest standards are used for special education and related services personnel—section 300.136. However, without an additional note, this provision could condone practices that have screened out disabled persons from such professions as Orientation and Mobility.

Until very recently, for example, the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) routinely denied O&M certification to blind mobility instructors. This long-standing AER practice naturally inhibited university O&M training programs from accepting blind students.

However, there are many highly-qualified, agency-trained blind mobility instructors who are not AER-certified, and who are currently employed in both eduation and rehabilitation programs. NOPBC believes that blind mobility instructors—whether agency—or university-trained—are excellent role models as well as safe instructors for blind children. Therefore, NOPBC recommends that section 300.136 be amended by inserting a new subsection which would read: "(h) To the extent that such standards may screen out or tend to screen out individuals with disabilities, the state shall assure that such standards will not be utilized."

(d) Finally, NOPBC commends the department for recognizing and defining Orientation and Mobility as a distinctive related-service for blind or visually impaired students—section 300.22(b)(6). This distinction is important. The travel or mobility needs of other disability groups should not be confused with, or merged, with the unique orientation and mobility needs of the blind. NOPBC does recommend that part (ii) of the definition of "Orientation and Mobility" under section 300.22(b)(6) be revised to read: "Teaching blind and visually impaired students to use the long cane, as appropriate, as a tool for safely negotiating the environment." The current wording is unnecessarily lengthy, and implies that a cane is less important to persons with some vision than those who are totally blind. This, it seems, is a subjective, individual determination and has no bearing on the need for, or the provision of, this service.

Letters in support of these recommendations would be very helpful.

Comments must be received on or before January 20, 1998. You can mail, fax, or e-mail your comments to the following: Regular mail: Thomas Irvin, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, U.S. Department of Education, Room 4607, Mary E. Switzer Building, 330 C Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20202. Fax: (202) 260-0416. E-mail: [comment@ed.gov] The subject line for your e-mail must read "Assistance for Education."

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