The Most Important Section of an IEP

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Reading an IEP can be overwhelming to say the least. The number of pages alone can make anyone want to put the document aside and read it later. But, if you are going to work on understanding if your child’s school is providing the appropriate services and accommodations, you need to take time to not only read each section, but to understand each section.

With all of the pages and sections, I often get asked which section is most important in a child’s IEP. The most important section is the Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance (PLAAFP), or “Present Levels” for short.

If written correctly, the Present Levels section should provide a current snapshot of your child. The section should describe your child’s strengths and weaknesses – both academically and functionally, how the school assessed your child and the data from the evaluations, how your child learns, and how your child’s disability effects his/her learning in the general education curriculum.

One question to ask yourself when reading the Present Levels section is – if I gave my child’s IEP to a stranger (or new school), would the person understand my child’s needs from reading the PLAAFP section only? If the answer is no, you and the school need to work together on rewriting the section. Unfortunately, when reviewing IEPs for families in South Carolina, I often see vague and incomplete Present Levels sections.

Why is the Present Levels section so important?

The Present Levels section of an IEP is the blueprint for the rest of the IEP. Your child’s goals should be written based off his/her Present Levels. If your child’s IEP has a weak Present Levels section, your child’s IEP is defective. You cannot have an appropriate IEP without a solid Present Levels section.

In short, if the IEP does not thoroughly and accurately describe your child’s strengths, weaknesses and needs, it is impossible to write appropriate goals, accommodations, and services that will help your child receive an appropriate education.

If you need assistance determining if your child’s IEP is appropriately written for him/her to make meaningful progress, I can help. Contact me today and I’ll assist you in navigating the Special Education/IEP process in South Carolina.

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