NATHHAN National Challenged Homeschoolers Associated Network

Christian Families Homeschooling Special Needs Children

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Writing your own IEP

    I am a homeschooling mother of seven.  My husband and I have been homeschooling for 14 years.  One of our children is profoundly retarded and mildly physically handicapped as well. I have written an article on writing an IEP that I feel would be beneficial for NATHAN members.  I'd like to share it."   

------Wendi Capehart

IEP stands for Individualized Educational Program. Schools are required to develop IEPs for all their special need students. There are times when homeschooling parents may find it helpful to have an IEP as well.

I am not an expert in special education. I have no college degree in any field. I am a homeschooling mom, a housewife, just like many of you. You need not be an expert in special education to write an IEP. You need only be what most mothers are, an expert on your child.

I have written several IEPs for one of our children who has multiple special needs. A number of professionals have seen my most 'official' looking effort, and even the most hostile have been impressed. One speech therapist paid me the rather dubious compliment of lifting part of my IEP verbatim and placing it in her own report as her own words. Several others paid me the even more dubious compliment of asking me repeatedly who helped me write it, unable to believe that a mere housewife wrote what they say is the best IEP they've ever read. I am not an expert in special education. But I am an expert on my daughter. You are an expert on your child. Remember that, and do not be intimidated by the task.

What format you want for your IEP will depend upon your audience. Is this a tool for your eyes only, merely an organizational guide, a lesson plan for you to use with your special needs child? Is it intended to go in your child's permanent record, perhaps to be seen by possibly hostile officials? Is this for a local educator, one who is friendly? Do you need an official looking IEP for deflecting the negative attention of some official? I will be sharing from our most formal IEP, the one designed with one particularly hostile individual with whom we had to deal with in mind. Most of us will not need to be so formal.

So what exactly is an "Individualized Educational Plan?" It is a road map, so to speak, of how to get your child from the place he is now to the place he needs to go. It consists primarily of a list of goals you have for your child and objectives for those goals. You are writing down what it is you want your child to learn (the goals), and what steps you and your child need to take in order to master that "learning objective." So the first step is to determine what it is that your child needs to learn.

You can do this by having him assessed, by testing him yourself, through personal observation (simply watching, studying, and thinking about your child), through talking with others about your child, and particularly through prayer. I believe that all children have a purpose in life. God has designed our children with a plan in mind. What is His plan for your child? With these tools in hand, develop a list of goals you would like your child to achieve. These can be advanced or quite simple. One year we wanted our daughter to learn to open the car door for herself. We also wanted her to learn not to hug strangers around the neck in a death lock grip. Make your list based on your child’s developmental level. Once you have your list, you have the raw material for an IEP.

For an IEP that will work for you and your family, simply list the goals you have chosen. Under each goal, list the steps you and your child will take in order to reach those goals.

To turn that raw material into a more formal IEP, it helps to look at other IEPs. Notice their format, the language used, the general feel, the writing style, the vocabulary. Look at an IEP as a writing assignment. You are to write a document, not in the style of Dickens or Lucado, but in the style of special educators. Your library may have some books available on writing lesson plans and IEPs. There may be information available on the Internet. When we adopted our daughter she had already been in the public schools for 3 years. I used her former IEPs as a model. If your child has been fortunate enough never to have been in public school, you can ask your friends who have special children in the public schools if you could see their child's IEP, or part of it. Explain that you are trying to write your own and would like to see a sample IEP to help you. If you know any special educators you could ask if there are any materials, forms, or old IEPs (with personal information blocked out) that you could look at to help you develop your child’s IEP. Use wisdom and discretion in talking to a special educator. Some are friendly and sympathetic. Some are less so. If you find a homeschooling friendly special educator, pick her brain and take copious notes. ..."


Wendi Capehart