Amy Dunaway   Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Developing an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for you child with special learning needs is beneficial to the home educator and the child with special needs. It allows you to plan your goals for the future and ways to meet these goals. Children with learning differences may not progress through the normal scope and sequence as rapidly as their "typical" peers. The IEP is your written plan to address the areas of weakness and any deficiencies in academic skills. It also provides for instructional direction. It is documentation of your child's progress in the event of inquiries. Sharon Hensley discusses the IEP in depth in her book, Home Schooling Children with Special Needs. Another good resource for information about IEP's and their development is Strategies for Struggling Learners, A Guide for Teaching Parents by Joe P. Sutton.

IEP's generally include the following academic areas or domains: Language, Reading, Math, Perceptual Skills, Writing or Pre-writing Skills, Fine and Gross Motor Skills. The IEP can include areas of projected need such as social skills, functional or self-help skills (dressing, bathing, etc.) Deborah Mills has written a functional IEP guide for the home educators use called Individual Education Planning for the Handicapped Student (available from NATHHAN.) This book breaks down skills that will be useful in the home and community. Academic skills are functionally taught within this type of IEP. Academic goals are not included in this book. It could be a useful adjunct to any academic curriculum.

The IEP should have the following information:
  1. Present skill level documented on a developmental inventory and/or present level of educational performance.
  2. Long-term goals for any areas of weakness or deficiency. These should be reasonably accomplished over the next twelve months. Challenge your child-he/she will achieve goals. Decide what your priorities are with realistic expectations. Long-term goals are generalized, broad-based such as "Charlotte will increase in receptive language skills." There may be more than one long-term goal per domain or skill area. If you meet your goals for the year, set more goals. An IEP should be fluid, always moving forward. Do not be afraid of moving a goal that has not been reached into the next year's IEP. This will happen on occasion.
  3. Short-term objectives to meet the long-term goals. These should be specific, well-defined objectives tailored to meet your child's individual needs and based on the long-term goals. These are the daily steps you take to educate your child. Each objective that you meet brings you closer to your long-term goal. Use benchmarks to show the mastery level your child is expected to have by a future date within the year.
  4. Methods and materials to meet these goals and objectives. These could be items/games made by the home educator, specific curriculum or other resource to implement your individualized program.
  5. An evaluation to measure progress. You need to define how you will know your child is making progress. With some thought most skills can be broken down as a task analysis. Task analysis involves identifying a skill, determining an entry behavior, analyzing the skill and recording the sequence of task events into small observable components and sequencing the skill. Some skills can be observed and recorded in a daily journal or log. Written tests may work for the older or able child. We must be careful not to compare our children with other children. Let us measure their progress as individuals. Measure your child against his or hers baseline.
  6. List of resources or curriculum used for the school year including resources for outside therapies such as occupational therapy, speech therapy, or physical therapy.
I also have available our daily schedule for each working day. We do not necessarily stick to the schedule absolutely but it is our guideline for the day. On occasion, an illness or an appointment with a physician or dentist may necessitate moving an activity to another day. One of the great benefits to our family is the flexibility homeschooling allows in scheduling appointments, fieldtrips, and other activities.

Work on lesson plan development or your child's IEP counts as "school" time if you keep a daily attendance record.

Each IEP is unique for each child to meet your child's needs but you will probably find that children with Down syndrome (DS) have common learning differences. No one IEP will be appropriate for all children with DS. The IEP process will help move your child toward maximum independence by keeping focus on your goals for their academic and functional growth.

Resources for IEP Development

Home Schooling Children with Special Needs by Sharon Hensley
Strategies for Struggling Learners, A Guide for Teaching Parents by Joe P. Sutton
Helps For Special Education Teachers, Curriculum and Activities to Promote Basic Skill Development in Special Needs Children by Eileen Shaum
Learning In Spite of Labels by Joyce Herzog

Resources for goals