Creating an IEP or PDP
CRHE recommends that each homeschooled child with disabilities have either an Individualized Education Program (IEP), created cooperatively by the child’s parents and the school district, or a Privately Developed Plan (PDP), created cooperatively by the child’s parents and their service providers. Please note that PDPs should have all of the same elements as IEPs. The only distinction should be that one is developed through a public school while the other is developed privately.
How do you know whether your child should have an IEP, or a PDP? In general, developing an IEP through the school district is preferable if you want your child to receive services through their local school. However, disability services offered through the school district may not be available to homeschooling families in every state or school district. If you are interested in receiving services through your child’s school, we recommend that you consult your state’s homeschooling law, your state department of education’s website on homeschooling, and your local school district. (For more, see disability law & homeschooling.)
Some states, such as Oregon, legally require parents who homeschool children with disabilities to have either an IEP or a PDP. Oregon law defines the PDP as follows:
“Privately developed plan” (PDP) means an individual plan developed by a team including the parent and one or more private service providers to address the educational needs of a child with a disability. A PDP shall include individual educational goals for the student and a statement indicating how satisfactory educational progress will be determined for the student.
We recommend that parents who are homeschooling children with disabilities create an IEP or PDP for their child regardless of whether their state requires it. Remember, the goal is to ensure that children with disabilities receive the services and accommodations they need to succeed and thrive. Additionally, if questions ever arise about your homeschool, having an IEP or a PDP for your child will help you demonstrate that you are a responsible homeschooling parent.
IEPs (and PDPs) for disabled children must include annual goals that enable them to make progress towards the general education curriculum, which is understood to mean your state learning standards. In other words, an approach of “this child can’t learn, so we’ll just give up” is deemed unacceptable. Even if a child is unable to achieve the standards, they should still be making consistent, measurable progress towards them. Every homeschooled child has the right to an education that supports the development of their personality, talents, and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential.
What Does an IEP Include?
What should your child’s IEP or PDP include? You can read a legal description of the Individualized Education Program (IEP), including which individuals are expected to be on the individualized education program team, under (d) Individualized Education Programs. You can also read an explanation in the more parent-friendly A Guide to the Individualized Education Program, by the U.S. Department of Education.
Every IEP must include the following sections:
- Current performance. This section should draw on the previous year’s academic assessment, observations by parents or tutors, and any tests given as part of the IEP process. You must also include a discussion of how the child’s disability affects their academic progress, and list the student’s strengths and the areas where improvement is needed. Some IEPs address the student’s social and physical development and executive functioning needs as well.
- Measurable annual goals. This section should list goals that the child can reasonably accomplish in a year. These goals should be divided into short-term objectives or benchmarks. Goals may be academic, address social or behavioral needs, or relate to physical needs. The goals must be measurable, meaning that it must be possible to measure whether the student has achieved the goals.
- Disability services and accomodations. This section should list all disability services (i.e. therapies) and accommodations (i.e. modifications) the child will receive. This should include any professional development or training the homeschooling parent will complete in order to better assist the child.
- Participation with nondisabled children. In a typical IEP, this section addresses the extent to which the child will be included in a regular classroom. For children who are homeschooled, this section should include information on what learning the child will do with non-disabled children, such as in homeschool co-ops, as well as what interaction the child will have with other children who share their disability, such as through disability support groups.
- Participation in state and district-wide tests. This section should include whether the child will take any standardized test as part of their annual academic assessment (and if so what test); whether there will be modifications (such as extra time, or reading the questions out loud); and the form the child’s annual academic assessment will take, if other than a standardized test.
- How progress will be measured. This section should list planned periodic assessments of the child’s progress, such as completed work, tests, or parent observations, as well as how the child’s annual academic assessment will assess and measure the goals in their IEP.
- How parents will be informed. For children who are homeschooled, this section should include what records of the child’s progress will be kept, how these records will be maintained, and, depending on the state, what information will be provided to the child’s school district, and when.
- Dates and places. The IEP must state when services will begin, how often they will be provided, where they will be provided, and how long they will last.
For children who are teens, IEPs must include additional sections:
- Transition services: Courses of study. Beginning when the child is age 14 at the latest, the IEP must address the academic progress they need to make to reach their post-school goals. This is generally the progress the child needs to make to complete high school, or to prepare for postsecondary school.
- Transition services: Leaving school. Beginning when the child is age 16 at the latest, the IEP must state what transition services are needed to help the child prepare for leaving school. This should include what services or supports the child will receive that will enable them to work toward independence as an adult.
- Age of majority. Beginning at least one year before the child reaches the age of majority, the IEP must include a statement that the student has been told of any rights that will transfer to them at the age of majority. (For more, see here and here.) Parents who homeschool should discuss with their child what rights they have under disability law.
These last three items are especially important for disabled children who are homeschooled, because services for disabled teens transitioning to adulthood are often centered on public high schools. For example, in some cases parents may have difficulty accessing jobs programs and other services designed for disabled teens and young adults that are provided through public high schools. For this reason, if you are planning to homeschool a disabled child through high school, you should be proactive about identifying and accessing the transition services your child will need to achieve the highest degree of independence possible for a child with their disability.
To see what the IEP process looks like in a public school and what questions are asked, see this Individualized Education Program Conference Summary Report template created by Illinois State Board of Education for use in Illinois schools. If you are creating a PDP for your child, you may want to consider using this template (or one like it) to guide the questions you ask as you walk through this process.
You may also find it useful to look at additional IEP templates:
Creating a Privately Developed Plan (PDP)
If you are creating an IEP through your school district, you will need to use their preferred form. However, if you are creating a PDP, you will need to develop your own form, together with your child’s service providers. While the contents of an IEP (which is developed in cooperation with a school district) are set by national disability law, the contents of a PDP created for a homeschooled child is not set in stone. While your child’s PDP should include at least all of the same sections and information as an IEP, you may also add other sections, or make other adjustments.
To assist parents developing PDPs for their children, CRHE has created its own sample PDP template. This template is downloadable and is available free of charge:
Remember that you should not create your child’s PDP completely on your own. Instead, you should develop your child’s PDP cooperatively with your child’s service provider or other relevant individuals. IEPs are created in cooperation with multiple stakeholders, and PDPs should involve as many of these same individuals as possible.
By law, the IEP process must involve all of the following individuals:
- The child with the disability
- The parents of the child
- The child’s regular teacher
When a child is homeschooled, the parent is often playing a double role as both the child’s parent and the child’s teacher. However, in some cases it may also be appropriate to include a tutor or co-op teacher.
- A special education teacher
For a homeschooled child, this could be a therapist, specialist, or other service provider.
- A representative of the school district
This is likely not applicable for a PDP, because when the school district is involved (for example, when a homeschooled child is receiving speech therapy at their local public school), the school will work with the parents to develop an IEP, not a PDP.
- An individual who can interpret the student’s evaluations
When a child is homeschooled, this should be the individual who will conduct the child’s assessment at the end of the year. As we discuss in our section on assessments, this should be a certified teacher who is not a friend or close family member.
- Other individuals with special knowledge or expertise
For children who attend public school, this may include the school nurse, or, if the child is a ward of the state, the child’s caseworker. For children who are homeschooled, this may include the child’s pediatrician, or regular caregivers other than the parent. Note that all PDP teams should include at least one professional outside of the child’s family.
Which individuals you choose to involve in creating your child’s PDP will vary depending on individual circumstances, but the categories above should give you a starting point! Remember, you should never try to homeschool a child with disabilities completely on your own; you need a support system and your child needs a whole team of people supporting their development. Think of the PDP process as an opportunity to bring your child’s whole team together! In some cases, this may mean scheduling a physical meeting, with the various participants gathered around a table (or over Zoom). In other cases, you may find it useful to have an individual review a draft of your child’s PDP on their own time and provide feedback. Whatever process you use, you should work to incorporate your child’s whole team in the PDP process.
At the end of the year, you will need to have your child assessed as laid out in your child’s PDP. You should then store both the PDP and your child’s assessment with your child’s permanent academic record. And remember—this is an annual process! Your child will need a new PDP at the beginning of each school year.
Don’t forget to read the other articles in this series!
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