Individualized education programs

Individualized education programs (IEP) have two general purposes i.e., the establishment of quantifiable yearly goals for a child and to state the special education as well as associated services and supplementary services or aids that the public agency will provide to a child. In the construction of an ideal program for a child with a disability, the IEP team considers the involvement of the child and his/her participation in three fundamental areas of the school, which are nonacademic activities, the general curriculum, and extracurricular activities. All these three components must result in optimal educational outcomes for a child.

The IEP for the student was not calculated reasonably. There are concerns about the curriculum choice, which may impede the realization of set goals/objectives. The general curriculum concerns the subject matter that the teaching program provides to children without disabilities as well as the associated skills that they develop in the course of their education. Therefore, if an adopted curriculum does not result in a child’s positive development, then the IEP program is not appropriate.  The IEP team should examine the developed objectives, goals, and benchmarks and establish the least restrictive element (LRE) in which the set objectives and goals can come to fruition. The importance of placing these goals and milestones is that they become the motivation for placement decisions. A fundamental concept in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is that children with various disabilities should access the general education curriculum.

The law requires programs tailored for students with disabilities to be accountable for similar programs developed for nondisabled students. The IDEA places great emphasis on student progress and involvement in the general education program. Therefore, if the program that the mother recommends addresses the curriculum deficiencies of the program that the school has adopted, the IEP team should look into the concerns raised and either alter the program to meet the child’s needs or overhaul the IEP program. Nonetheless, the school is at liberty to make the best decision that takes into account the cost of the program and the benefits to other learners.

A possible improvement in the IEP program is to incorporate a hidden curriculum in the current plan. A hidden curriculum refers to guidelines or rules that are not taught directly in schools since teachers assume that the students know. These include aspects such as social conduct and unwritten social rules that individuals learn automatically and intuitively. Though every child does not have to learn these guidelines, it is crucial for a child with autism syndrome to learn the hidden curriculum because of their limited social interaction and cognition skills.

It is difficult to define rules of the hidden curriculum; rather, they become apparent when broken and unpleasantly conspicuous. When learners with autism break these hidden curriculum rules, they can have detrimental outcomes for the child, such as shunning by peers. Hidden curriculum includes elements that individuals learn through observation and social cues. The primary objective of adding a hidden curriculum in an IEP program for an autistic student is to have a positive impact on the student’s social interaction, safety, and performance.

Nonetheless, teachers must understand that teaching a hidden curriculum is a difficult task. Children with the autistic syndrome have an innate disability because of the challenge that they encounter with their social skills and the theory of the mind. While offering such a service requires the intervention of teachers, therapists, and parents, the most critical factor is the establishment of trust between the educators and the student to create a conducive learning environment.

For schools to create effective IEP programs, teachers, parents, and other school staff, such as therapists, must work in unison to establish the unique needs of a learner. Their experience, pool of knowledge, and commitment to a designed program will help them achieve set goals and objectives. There IEP process is critical towards ensuring effective teaching, therefore, the team must address the mother’s dissatisfaction. IEPs are working documents, not rigid recommendations. Therefore, parents should understand that the IP will always respond to the changes that a child experiences and the progress made. The IEP team can review the program regularly to make changes that accommodate the development that a student makes. In this regard, the team should make a disgruntled parent understand that there will be an opportunity to review a curriculum according to the child’s response.

If the IEP team recommended services that are may be overwhelming to the child, the child could receive some assistance on a consultative basis to lessen the burden imposed on the child’s schedule. In this case, respective professionals will consult with the teachers to develop strategies that help the child without offering hands-on instruction. For example, the team can suggest that the occupational therapist recommends accommodations for children with fine motor problems that affect their writing. The classroom teacher will incorporate the recommendation into the handwriting lessons that he/she teaches the entire class. Consequently, such an intervention will eliminate the need for the child to have a separate session with an occupational therapist, thus lessening the burden on the learner’s schedule.

 The school provides both maximum and educational benefits to learners with special needs. The combination of IDEA and NCLB results in requirements and provisions that provide special needs learners with individualized instructions while keeping the school accountable. This collaboration ensures that the child’s progress becomes a shared responsibility for both the special education and general teachers. In this regard, the school has a higher consciousness level, which transmits to the district and state levels. The NCLB requires states to develop challenging educational programs for students and set uniform content and achievement standards for all students, including those with disabilities. IDEA, on the other hand, requires states to establish indicators and performance goals that enhance the progress of students with disabilities. To do this, schools must come up with specially designed programs that will facilitate access and a student’s progression in the general curriculum.

The NCLB campaign requires annual testing for all students in grades 3 to 8. The tests cover math, science, and reading and language. These tests must include students with disabilities eligible under IDEA. The NCLB expects a majority of students with disabilities to take part in tests that are similar to those of nondisabled students. IDEA, on the other hand, requires maximum participation in state assessments for students with disabilities. While the NCLB acknowledges that effective teaching has a direct effect on learning, IDEA sets qualification standards for special education teachers. Additionally, IDEA requires special education teachers to collaborate with general education teachers, giving students with disabilities access to the same teachers as nondisabled children.

In this regard, the combination of IDEA and NCLB guidelines in teaching students with disabilities ensures optimal learning outcomes for children. The integration enhances accountability for states, schools, and teachers. The provision of maximum benefit augments the provision of educational benefit. However, NCLB remains the primary reference point for designing education programs since all recommendations in the act have a direct effect on the actions taken under IDEA.

Regarding knowledge transfer in different settings, all students in the U.S are entitled to quality education. In the same spirit, students with disabilities have a right to receive suitable public education or FAPE. Free appropriate public education is at the epicenter of special education and has several features. First, the amenities provided to a learner, i.e., instruction, assessment, and related dedicated services, are delivered at no cost to the learner’s family. Secondly, the program must empower the student to make progress in the general curriculum and custom-made to meet the student’s needs. Notably, ‘appropriate” education does not imply providing the best services; rather, schools must guarantee enough growth in the general curriculum.

Thirdly, the FAPE implies that public education entities have the responsibility to provide education for the learners within their boundaries. Where the district is unable to meet the needs of a child, it still has the responsibility to cover the learner’s cost to obtain an education in a different setting. In Florence Co. Sch Dist Four v. Shannon Carter, (1993), the supreme court arrives at a 9-0 unanimous decision, which determined that if public schools failed to avail suitable education and that a child received education in a private institution, the parents of the child are entitled to reimbursement for meeting the cost of the child’s education in a private setting. 

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