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Individualized Education Program:

A Road Map To Success


This article can be found at the following web site:
American Hyperlexia Association
Many Thanks to them for this valuable information
Editor's Note: This HTML document is a repackaging of a booklet published by the State of Ohio Department of Education (1995) . The paper version is printed in the form of an AAA Trip Tik with each step of the journey on a separate flip-page.

I have spoken with so many parents that report IEP sessions as a struggle, a conflict, a test of will to see who wins. Many report the approach being like a negotiation of a deal. "Let's see what we can get from the school system" as the teachers try to not give up the farm. I know it doesn't have to be that way. Perhaps, this approach will help.

Keep in mind, that the approach outlined here only works if both parent and teacher approach the IEP with the same mindset and goals. Share this approach with the teachers and administrators and agree to approach the IEP in this way. If this can be accomplished, the confrontational aspects will be removed from the IEP meetings, and the full energy of the teachers and parents will go into crafting a plan to maximize the benefit to the child. After all, the IEP is supposed to be about the child, isn't it?

While the document was prepared for State of Ohio residents, I believe the contents to be beneficial to residents of other states within the USA. It very well may be of most use to residents of countries that do not have a formal IEP (or equivalent) process.

The original pamphlet contained the following disclaimer:
The activity which is the subject of this report was supported in whole or in part by the U.S. Department of Education. However, their opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the positions or policy of the U.S. Department of Education, and no official endorsement by the U.S. Department of Education should be inferred.
The Ohio Department of Education does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, or disability in employment or in the provision of services.

Table of Contents
Welcome to the Individualized Education Program: A Road Map to Success. Educators, parents, and other team members have written and implemented individualized education programs (IEPs) for children with special needs for a long time. It is time to reflect on our current practices, to think about how and why we do things the way we do, and to see if there might be a better way. This document, along with the accompanying IEP Tour Book, gives use the change to rethink the way in which we design and implement educational plans.
You will find the Road Map easy to read and, if you follow the sequence it sets out, you will realize that you are probably thinking about IEPs in a new way. Our hope is that by thinking differently, each of use might begin to act differently and that, together, we will make better, more meaningful educational plans for the children in our schools and communities.
Please take a moment now, grab your bags, and join us as we begin our journey...
It takes a whole village to raise a child... We are the village and these are our children. (Nigerian Proverb)
Schools serve each individual child and the community. Schools are learning communities in which each member is respected and expected to progress. Learning happens more readily when children have positive relationships with other young people and adults -- when they feel they belong.

What are the goals for children in Ohio?
We want young people to succeed in the future by maximizing their potential today. We want them to be involved in their communities, to have friends, and to become contributing adult members of the wider community. These goals do not change because of the color of the child's skin, the ethnic or cultural background of the child, the ability of the child, or the presence of a disability. The school's mission statement should reflect the importance of diversity within the school community.

Each child's school career is a journey with a beginning and a destination. In Ohio, the goal of the journey is to prepare the young person to meet the following needs of the twenty-first century:
The vehicles for reaching this destination are learning communities that emphasize the lifelong skills and knowledge necessary to

Develop lasting friendships
Continue learning
Solve problems
Use information and technology effectively
Enjoy productive employment
Meet their obligations as citizens
Interact with others successfully
Although the destination for each child attending school is the same, the route taken and the travel time will vary. The route any child will take might be mapped out. However, for the child with a disability, and individual route must be mapped out through the IEP process.

The vehicles for the journey and fueled by knowledge of the young person's gifts, talents, unrecognized abilities, and learning styles, or how she learns. This fuel is produced by
Learning from the important people in the young person's life;
Observing the young person outside of school, as well as in school; and
Determining what does and does not work with her.
The IEP is the educational road map for the young person with a disability. The following beliefs should guide the development of IEPs:

All children belong to the community where they live and the responsibility for their education rests with the school districts within that community;
The goal of education is to enhance the pursuit of a meaningful life;
The family is the foundation of lifelong planning for and with the child;
The success of children is built, in part, on the natural support systems developed to encourage lasting friendships in educational and community settings;
Teams working through collaborative relationships are essential to ensuring that each child's educational experience is a success;
Planning by teams needs to be based on trust and respect for each person's experience, which, in turn, supports flexibility or roles;
the use of problem-solving methods and intervention-based services will support the accomplishment of long-term goal planning for children; and
Special education is a series of individually designed services and supports; it is not a place to which children are assigned.

Dreams are goals with wings
Kriegel, Robert J. (1991). 
If it ain't broke...break it! NY: Warner Books, Inc.
Parents have dreams for their child and each child has dreams for herself or himself. Understanding the family's culture and background helps school personnel understand these dreams.
If each of use feels that the young person is our child, and belongs to our community, we can develop a personal dream for him. Close your eyes and picture this child as an adult. What do you see? What would you wish for him? What does he wish for himself -- as a growing emerging adolescent...a young adult...?

Putting dreams or visions into words is part of the ongoing, long-term planning for a child with a disability, and serves as the basis for mapping out the journey n which the child, the family, and educators will embark. Having a vision helps plan next year's destination.
Good IEP goals
Are driven by child needs;
Are mutually agreed on by the family and the school;
Support activities that are valued and typical of others who are the same age as the child;
Support school and community membership; and
Facilitate movement toward the long-range goals set by the child and her family.
One way to frame appropriate IEP goal development is to ask the following questions:

What do children of this age do in school, at home, and in the community?
What does this child want and/or need to do?
What can he do now?
What should we work on?
What kinds of support will she need?
Before attending the IEP meeting, take time to think about who should go along on this IEP journey and what you need to pack for the trip. Gather information that will be useful to share with others for the common purpose of supporting the child.

You should pack a
Commitment to collaboration;
Positive mindset; and
Willingness to try new things.
Remember to bring along

Examples of strategies and interventions that have and have not worked; and
Goals you have for the coming year.
Prepare for emergencies or hazards by
Being aware that everyone may not agree on the destination for the year or how to get there;
Understanding that you commitment to working together may be challenged;
Knowing that you may need additional information, resources, or roadside assistance; and
Accepting that detours may arise when the road ahead becomes bumpy or impassable.
IEP teams work best when everyone comes prepared and eager to work in a spirit of collaboration. Some suggestions for meaningful preparation are provide below.
Talk to your parents and teachers about what you want to do when you leave school;
Think about what you want to learn this year; and
Practice telling people about you hopes and desires (think about using a tape recorder if that would be easier).
Gather information about and with your child that you want to share with the team;
Examine the long-range goals you have set for your child and rethink those if necessary; and
Consider annual goals that will have value for your child and your family, and which will help your child to accomplish his long-range plans.
Learn about the child's culture, strengths, interests, and long-range goals;
Review strategies for effective intervention; and
Consider meaningful annual goals and short-term instructional objectives.
District Representative
Develop an agenda that allows for inclusive involvement of all participants;
Be knowledgeable about all assessments, background information, and current and log-range educational goals for the child; and
Create an inviting atmosphere and offer to serve as facilitator.
Additional Legal Considerations
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. (Chinese Proverb)
The IEP development process is comprised of five sequential steps and seven required considerations that are needed to plan the trip and draw the road map -- that is to produce the written IEP document.
As part of this process, the following questions are answered:
Where are we going (the long-term vision for this child)?
Where are we now (what she knows and does well)?
How far can we get this year (this year's annual goals and objectives)?
How will we get there (what services will be provided)?
What route will we take (where services will be provided)?
STOP! Before beginning the IEP meeting, review the Additional Legal Considerations contained in this document.

Step 1: Where are we going?
Review the results of the evaluation team report and/or the current IEP and any new information. Talk about what strategies worked well this past year and about those that didn't work so well. Ask everyone on e the team about his or her sense of hew things are going, where the child is doing well, and where he needs some interventions.

Step 2: Where are we now?
Determine the area(s) of the child's needs as well as her strengths and interests. Review what techniques and strategies have worked best. Learn about the child's life outside of school in her role as a family and community member. This information can be used to gain a better understanding of the child's present levels of educational performance, and to outline those present levels on her IEP.

Step 3: How far can we get this year?
Write goals and objectives that will have value to the child, build on his strengths, and help him reach his long range goals. Design modifications and interventions to accommodate his needs. Determine how progress will be evaluated in an effective and meaningful way.

Step 4: How will we get there?
Determine what special education and related services will be needed to implement the goals and objectives. Describe these specific services on the child's IEP. Document modifications and accommodations needed by the child for her to be successful in the general education classroom.

Step 5: What route will we take?
Assume the child will be in general education classes with his same-age peers. Talk about modifications and services needed to make that successful. Only remove the child from the general education classroom for times when the team agrees that his needs cannot possibly be met there. Develop a plan that is as natural as possible, understanding that for very young children, home and/or a community preschool might be the most appropriate setting in which to meet the child's needs.

Exit 4A
The following questions should be answered during the IEP meeting:
Did you discuss how much the child can participate in all testing and assessment programs, including statewide proficiency tests? What accommodations might she need?
If the child is between the ages of three and five, did you ensure that transition from early childhood to school-age special education services is accomplished through specific procedures?
If the student is 16 years of age or older, did you develop a plan for the transition from school to work, additional training or higher education, and to community living?
Did the team develop, for each child with a disability whose behavior significantly interferes with his learning or other children's opportunity to learn, a plan to address those behaviors that interfere with learning?
Did you ensure that the physical education needs of the child were addressed on his IEP?
Did you discuss a possible need for extended school year services if, because of an interruption between school years, the child fails or is likely to fail to achieve her short-term objectives?
If the child has a visual impairment, did you determine whether or not Braille instruction is needed?
Additional Signposts
In order to reach the destination, everyone needs to follow the map -- that is to implement the IEP -- in the spirit in which it was developed. Families and schools, working together, should be on the look out for unexpected curves in the road and remember that the journey is continuous, requiring constant reviewing and updating. Formal reporting to parents should follow the natural schedule of the school.
The teacher's lesson plans should reflect the individual child's road map, taking into account the diversity of the school community.
Traveling together will go smoothly, if everyone agrees to
Work together as part of a team;
Focus on the strengths and gifts of each child;
Build relationships with each other;
Adapt the curriculum to meet each child's individual needs;
Vary teaching methods; and
Be flexible and be willing to take occasional risks.

Exit 5A
Additional signposts to witch for along the IEP journey are listed below in question form. Answering yes to these questions and the ones posed in a later section (reviewing the IEP) indicates that our destination may be in sight.
Do teachers' lesson plans reflect children's IEP goals and objectives?
Is the staff person responsible for teaching an objective(s) monitoring the child's progress as indicated on the IEP?
Are the periodic reviews taking place as scheduled or as needed?
Are related services being provided as indicated on the IEP?
Has an IEP meeting been scheduled to discuss expected changes in objectives, goals, services, and/or placement?
Does instruction focus on the child's strengths and needs?
Are team members working together to implement IEP goals and objectives?
Have friendships and natural supports been facilitated within the school and community for full implementation of the child's program?
Has the team made appropriate instructional modifications in order to support the child's participation in integrated school and community settings?
More Signposts
Pull into a rest stop once in awhile. Get refreshed.
Check the mile markers.
Look at the vistas and enjoy the sights.

Reviewing is just another step on the journey. Reviewing helps us remember where we have been on the trip and reminds us to check the map to see if we're still heading in the right direction.

It is a chance to celebrate, build on where we've been and to set new directions.

Reviewing the IEP at least once a year, helps each member of the team reexamine current practice, refocus on the strengths and needs of the child and recommit to fulfilling the goals and dreams of the child and his family.

When coming to an intersection or interchange, it is important to determine if you are still heading in the right direction, or if a change in the route is needed. Remember, when you work together, no destination is unreachable.

And the journey continues...

Exit 6A
Has everyone who supports the child been invited to the IEP review meeting?
Has the child been invited, especially if he is the age when transition from school to work and higher education is to be discussed?
Is the IEP review meeting scheduled at a time and place that is convenient and welcoming for all team members?
Have you considered new information about the child's performance in school, at home, or in the community?
Has each IEP goal and objective been reviewed and progress discussed?
Has progress toward meeting goals and objectives been documented in a way that everyone can understand?
If the child is failing, or is likely to fail to achieve her objectives, is this due to an interruption of services? If so, is the need for extended school year services discussed?
If new goals and objectives have been developed, did all team members contribute? Were goals and objectives based on the vision for the child?
Have the goals of the parents and child been central to the development of the IEP?