Individual Education Plan (IEP)

By contrast with the IPRC process, which is narrow in its scope, and which usually occurs no more than once a year, the Individual Education Plan document is frequently written and rewritten. The IEP is often referred to as a “living document”, and the presence of additions, small edits and refinements are indications that the IEP is being consulted and evolving.

Some key facts about the IEP purpose and process:

Why have an IEP?

Students with Down syndrome may require additional supports in the form of accommodations or modifications to benefit from the Ontario curriculum, as it is usually delivered. Alternative programming, or programming that is in a different from the Ontario curriculum may also be needed. An IEP is, as the name suggests, a plan that the family and teaching team (and the student!) agree on, as to how the learning needs of the exceptional student will be addressed.

Who writes the IEP?

Typically, the classroom teacher collaborates with the members of the Special Education Resource team to write the IEP. Family members who wish to have input into the IEP should signal this early on to the teacher, as many school boards only consult the family to get their approval and signature after the IEP is complete.

Who consults the IEP?

Parents should read every IEP to see if they are satisfied that it presents a challenging but sympathetic approach to the education of their child. Ideally, all teachers and support staff who have contact with the student will contribute to, and then consult the IEP.  

Because teachers have so many students’ needs to consider, it is optimal if they intermittently refresh their memories about the goals and strategies that are expected to contribute to each student’s success.

If teachers forget to consult the IEP, the student doesn’t get the teaching they need, and the IEP won’t evolve, and an evolving IEP is the best type to have. If parents never read the IEP, their understanding of their child can’t be included in it.

When is the IEP produced?

The teaching team works on IEPs in the early days of each term, and the family must receive a copy of the IEP within the first thirty school days of each reporting period. 

See Special Education in Ontario, K-12

What does an IEP contain?

The IEP can be a lengthy document. Here are some key features to look for:

  • A list of the student’s personal strengths and needs
  • A selection of learning expectations from different curriculum areas
  • Indications as to whether, in each curricular area, the expectations of your child’s learning are
  • Accommodated from the standard curriculum (your child is expected to learn what the other students are studying, while being more, or differently, supported)
  • Modified (your child is working to achieve expectations that are part of the Ontario curriculum, but at a different level from what the other students are learning)
  • Alternative (your child’s learning expectations are outside the Ontario curriculum, but meaningful and important to your child)
  • A list of accommodations (ways the teaching team helps your child attend and learn, i.e “preferential seating”) and teaching strategies (techniques that are effective with your child, i.e. “one-on-one instruction and review”)

Is there any particular feature I should check?

An IEP succeeds or fails on the level and choice of learning expectations and the teaching strategies that are selected to achieve those expectations.

If your child is a capable athlete or artist, for example, it may be sufficient for them to be accommodated to succeed in Physical Education or Art classes, and the IEP should reflect this.

In some instances, your child with Down syndrome may be studying in the same curricular area as their classmates, just on modified expectations. To choose an overly simple example, in Grade 5 Math, when the rest of the class is studying division with regrouping, your child may be making groups with manipulatives, which is an FDK learning objective.

In other areas, your student with Down syndrome may be working on non-curricular, alternative expectations. As an example, your child may be enrolled in a Grade 10 Information Technology class. While the other students are working on issues of “access to online services” and analyzing examples of “identity theft”, your child may be learning by leveraging the use of those same online platforms (like Google) to make greeting cards. Supervision and/or safe controlled access to these platforms should be identified.

The IEP should convincingly communicate a feasible and instructionally sound plan for teaching a particular unit of study/expectation to the student.

How do I know if I can have confidence in the IEP?

  • Do you agree that the instructional goals are appropriate for your child?
  • Does the document “sound like” your child?
  • Do the goals change and develop from semester to semester? (If so, this may indicate that the teaching team has a good eye on your child’s progress.)
  • Is your child happy at school? (If so, this may be evidence that the instruction is appropriate and well-suited.)

Parents get so many copies of these IEPs. Why should we continue to stay alert to them?

Parents can’t be at school every minute, but monitoring the IEP gives you a picture of what your child’s day might be like.  In this sense, you are accompanying your child along their learning journey at school.

Your child’s report card tells of their progress towards mastering the expectations that are outlined in the IEP. You will read the report card in a more informed manner if you are keeping up with the changing IEP.

The IEP is an “accountability tool”. Everyone from the principal to members of the teaching team to the student and the family has agreed on the plan that is outlined in the IEP, and when family members stay alert to the changes in the IEP, they are honouring and monitoring the implementation of the plan.

To read more about the IEP process, click this link