An Overview of IEP Assessments
This week, Melissa Riccobono gives us an overview of the different factors and assessments that go into an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for school-aged children. Visit www.nopbc.org for more information.
In order to craft appropriate goals for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), the team needs recent, high quality data. This data needs to cover the child’s current skills, strengths, and FACTOR IN future success.
Here are some things to keep in mind when assessments are administered to, and interpreted for, children who are blind or low vision.
Who is administering the assessment: This is extremely important, especially for tests that may have many visual components. A blind or low vision child should be assessed by a professional who has received training in conducting assessments with this population. Many of these professionals are affiliated with state schools for the blind or a state commission for the blind. Local school districts can contract with these professionals to insure students are assessed properly.
Look at both sides of every assessment: All children have areas where skills are developing or lacking. It’s important to balance the lists of things the child needs to improve upon with “happy lists” of things he or she is doing successfully. Make sure the teams expectations for the child are high and age appropriate and take into account the child as a whole. Note that at times, the child’s ability to see is factored in. Although it is important to understand what a child can or cannot see, and although vision may be helpful in certain situations, children with low vision will never see as well as children who have normal vision. Therefore, parents need to look at both sides of such assessments and help the team understand that a child will use his or her vision for tasks where it is useful, but should be encouraged to use other techniques when using vision is not practical.
Learning Media vs Reading Media Assessments: Children who are blind or have low vision are often given learning media assessments. These assessments attempt to show whether children are visual, auditory, or kenestitic learners. This can be good information, but these assessments are sometimes used to make decisions about whether or not a child should be taught to read and write Braille. For more information about the need for and importance of Braille, check out THIS ARTICLE. What children who are blind or low vision really need is an assessment which will objectively measure whether they have enough vision to read print only, whether they should learn and use both print and Braille, or whether they should be solely Braille readers. The National Reading Media Assessment (NRMA) is the only research based, validated test, which looks at current needs, current vision, along with parent input, future reading demands, and future vision. Parents need to be aware of this assessment, and parents can request the NRMA be given to their child at any time.
Orientation and Mobility (O&M): O&M is the ability to travel independently, confidently, and safely in familiar and unfamiliar settings. Often, children with residual vision are not assessed in O&M because “she’s getting around just fine.” This argument does not take into account travel in unfamiliar areas, different lighting conditions, or future vision loss which might occur. For answers to common questions about O&M, visit the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness' (PDRIB) website.
A high quality assessment is offered by the PDRIB. Parents can request this assessment specifically. If this assessment cannot be performed, another assessment can yield helpful data as long as the child is assessed in both familiar and unfamiliar areas, lighting conditions are changed during the assessment, parents and teachers are able to give input about how and where the child travels in the school and community, and the likelihood of future vision loss is taken into account. Also, things such as gait, posture, and walking speed should be assessed.
If parents don’t agree: If parents feel assessment results reported at a meeting do not paint a complete or accurate picture of a child, they should request additional assessments be completed. Parents can also request an independent evaluation, which means someone outside the school who the parent chooses will complete the same or different assessments to gather new data. Procedures for making requests for an independent evaluation vary from state to state, but all states have such procedures in place and parents can ask their IEP team chair, or director of special education for information on making such a request. It is essential to gather the best data possible; the data gathered will be used in order to decide what services a child will receive, and what goals a child will work toward during the upcoming school year.