Forum Replies Created
As a teacher who leans heavy towards the right side of my brain, I really appreciate your focus on process and procedure. I have to push myself to be more linear and analytical in my work, and I like that you brought us back to the four filters and the structure of the IEP. Thank you!
Working at the beginning of a family’s experience with special education (Part B 3 and 4 year olds) provides my teams with the opportunity to educate parents on the critical importance of their role in their child’s education. They are the experts on who their child is and they know what they deeply hope and want for their child. From Child Find to providing IEP service and everything in between, our district’s itinerant CARE model allows me to have a great deal of time with teachers and families before we ever sit down at the “IEP Table”. Family concerns, hopes, desires, and needs drive much of the information in the PLAAFP as I believe it should be a rich description of the child from the family’s perspective as much as from the assessment team and classroom/teacher perspective. To determine the child’s “perspective” takes observation of the child and listening to the parents describe their child’s behavior. Knowing what a child’s preferences, likes, and dislikes are, can provide that foundational information that will help a teacher in planning for the child and embedding learning opportunities into their day that are meaningful and genuine.
The ABC formula really provides another “filter” for getting to the bottom of what is IEP worthy. If we discover that the general education environment (A) and practices are sufficient for eliciting a desired behavior (B) that fits our desired criteria (C), then we really need to consider whether the goal was necessary and really mattered in the first place. I found it interesting that in an OPRE report, Self-Regulation Snap Shot #2:
A Focus on Preschool-Aged Children, indicated that factors such as classroom climate, parenting skills and attitudes, and parent co-regulation have a higher value of impact on outcomes for preschool children (in regards to self-regulation) than other direct instruction strategies. I have observed this as I work with teachers (inclusive settings) and parents as we walk together on the road from initial concern to IEP implementation. And it is often the changes in the teacher’s focus on classroom climate, as well as parents focus on their desire to do more with their child – – -that seem to have the greatest impacts on child progress. Coming back around, was the team wrong in its write up of the PLAPFF or in choosing IEP worthy goals? I don’t think “wrong” is the correct term. The IEP is a 365 living document, not limited to the meeting room. Nor is it limited to the classroom.
Olena – thank you for your descriptions of skills/behaviors. You describe the child in such a clear way. You link the behavior to the “what” that you are looking for, and your rationales for the criteria are valid and meaningful.
Frequency: John will participate in at least 1 engagement activity with a peer or adult during morning “connecting” songs.
John is in need of safe relationships with peers and adults at his preschool, in order to increase his development in self-regulation (interactions and regulation). Measuring the frequency of his participation in “connecting” opportunities will give his teachers data that would indicate progress toward this IEP worthy need.
Accuracy: John will name all of his peers/teachers when it is his job during morning greeting activities.
Another piece of data that would demonstrate progress toward relationship building for John, would be the measure of his knowledge of the names of the peers and teachers in his classroom.
Latency: John will join the group within a reasonable amount of time for transitional activities between indoor and outdoor activities.
John often avoids groups completely but needs to be with the group for safety reasons. By measuring latency, his teachers give him the time to move through the transitions at a reasonable pace while still allowing him some extra time and space.
Duration: John will participate cooperatively with a peer during a center choice for at least 3 minutes.
John expresses possessiveness and fear that others will take a toy he is playing with. As interaction and regulation skills develop, his teachers should be able to measure an increase in the duration of time that John can maintain cooperative play with a peer.
Endurance: John will engage in multiple communication exchanges with peers/adults during a variety of play activities.
John is able to demonstrate his understanding of the need for communication exchanges in relationships when we note the number of exchanges during his play activities.
Intensity: John will use an indoor voice volume when he needs to express his dislike or displeasure at having to finish a preferred activity and move on to a less preferred activity.
John will show us through this measure, that he is beginning to understand and functionally use voice volume in a way that increases the likelihood that others will listen to him.
Independence: John will move through the transition from music/movement to lunch without grabbing preferred toys/materials from shelves in other parts of the room.
This measure can show us that John is beginning to increase his regulation of impulses, and stop himself from choices that are undesirable.
Hello Daniel –
I really appreciated your distinction between using a qualitative goal as a measure compared to peers and a quantitative goal as a measure compared to a specific level of skill on a specific task. I am going to put this on one of my reminders as it simplifies the choice for me. I think I tend to complicate things in my own thinking as I am very much NOT a behaviorist and my district is all about “ABA everything” . . . so that in reaction I go to far to the other side! I like your balanced approach – thank you!!!
Qualitative measure of behavior:
John has a very difficult time transitioning away from preferred activities of outdoor play and child choice play. He has recently been expressing his frustration through loud yelling, crying, knocking over toys or small furniture, or running from teaching staff. These transitions occur 4 times a day in his head start day, twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon. John has just begun to show response to the increased relationship building activities, consistent expectations, and “I love you” rituals that teachers and paraprofessionals are using with him. He is beginning to express trust in his caregivers that they understand his big feelings and are there to help him and support him through the times of day that are difficult. Since these are powerfully important “soft skills”, using qualitative measures makes sense in measuring John’s progress toward this goal. An example of this type of qualitative goal would be:
During transitions away from preferred activities John will recognizably overcome his disappointment by staying calm and participating as he moves to the next routine of the day with gentle reminders throughout his preschool day.
Quantitative measure of behavior:
John has a short attention span for teacher directed learning activities in his preschool classroom. During table time activities that are teacher directed and less preferred for John, he may rush through a task which limits his practice and performance. Examples of this are guided art activities, and letter/number activities that have been planned to meet the interest and skill levels of the majority of learners in his class. These tasks are also integrated into children’s choice time rather than as a stand-alone small group time. This makes it even more difficult for teachers to have John spend any time at the task as it is not really his “choice” but is his teacher’s choice. The teachers are trying to use a “first/then” strategy to get John to participate in these activities so that they can meet the expectations of their teacher director’s mandate that all children participate in and complete these activities at least 1x per day. As the teachers need a measure of John’s participation it makes sense to use a quantitative measure to track how often he is participating and how long he is participating each day in these activities. (Note – John is already demonstrating pre-academic skills involving letters, numbers, and placement of materials [art “activities”] that are age appropriate for his age and for kindergarten entry. Participation in activities that he is not interested in or that are present to provide opportunities for him to maintain his skills, hold little interest for John. John’s teachers need to work together as a team and with the children to find what is interesting to them and then build on that interest as they embed the activities into those interest areas). An example of a quantitative goal for John might be:
Upon teacher request, John will stop his play, transition to a table activity, and demonstrate focused participation in a small group activity, once a day for 15 minutes with prompts/supports (first/then, timer).
I would like to say that I did struggle with this quantitative goal for the reason that I had a difficult time determining whether this was for the benefit of the child or the teacher. I came to terms with my dilemma by deciding that this is a need for this head start program, but also a benefit to John who will be attending kindergarten next year and will be expected to participate in these types of activities for much longer periods of time than the goal is written for. It is my hope to plant the seed of meaningful participation so that when he is in Kindy it will not be such a difficult concept for him to grasp! But can I just say – I still don’t like it. If anyone has a good idea how to handle this type of dilemma I would appreciate any input!
Thank you for your honest assessment of quality as a difficult pattern to deal with. I also work as an itinerant teacher and understand how challenging it can be to maintain quality in the midst of constant change. I like your comment about making lists – and when I remember to do that – I too am more likely to give quality work to all of the children and adults seeking my attention. The mindfulness “movement” also helps me to focus on the moment at hand so that I give it my full attention and hopefully my best work. But even so – distractions and multiple demands may tear and the edges of my mind. I encourage you as I do myself, to keep at it and know that we are working to make the difference in the life of one child at a time!
Step 1&2: Comments Regarding Types of Patterns
Patterns of Quality: Quality is defined as a demonstration of a concept or skill in a way that, while allowing the child to accomplish a desired task, is done in such a way that it may hinder understanding of others, the accuracy of the performance, and/or may get in the way. Examples of quality include, issues around intelligibility, application of too much or not enough force, moving too quickly or too slowly, talking too loudly or softly etc. Patterns of quality don’t automatically suggest a concern; rather, they are an important consideration if they are interfering with interactions, physical health, and/or acquisition of future concepts and skills.
Comments: I can observe patterns of quality through all types of play. Looking at skill acquisition from emerging to accomplished, I need to determine what is happening. Is that child is stuck at a certain level of quality (scribbling with a fisted grip) a d not able to move forward because there is a physical concern? Or doe it mean that the child has had less opportunities to practice the skill and/or may simply need some targeted instruction.
Patterns of Latency: Latency, as it relates to learning or development, is defined as the amount of time it takes for someone to act or “do” after a request or prompt. In other words, how quickly does a child respond? Examples of latency include issues around time to task or verbal responses to questions or prompts, and also include concerns around impulsivity. Patterns of latency may not always be a concern, however they are important to consider if they are negatively impacting learning, development, health, communication, and/or behavior.
Comments: When I consider latency, I find myself considering executive functioning and processing. I see so much hurrying of children to stay on schedule and complete tasks that in the hurried endeavor many learning opportunities are actually missed. Children are also not given the time to respond to requests or answer questions when they are just beginning to acquire new concepts and understandings. I had several students last year with this struggle and at IEP meetings I often emphasized “wait time” (meaning counting to at least 5 in a teacher’s head) before jumping in to assist, correct, or move on. At the opposite end of the spectrum are the impulsive learners who rush ahead and do not take the time they really need to process and gain understanding of an outcome.
Patterns of Assistance: Assistance is when an adult, a peer/sibling, or the environment performs part of the concept or skills under consideration. Assistance alone does not warrant concern or a higher tier of instruction (i.e., assistance might be expected based on what is known about developmental expectations); however, when a pattern of needing assistance (e.g., required under predictable circumstances/situations beyond what would be expected of a novice learner, for the child’s age/present level of ability/developmental readiness, culture, and/or prior exposure) emerges, a concern is noted.
Comments: We all need assistance from time to time. But the child whose performance routinely stalls (latency?) or who’s quality is consistently limited (again the overlap) over time, without assistance, raises concerns. The confusion that I find when considering this pattern is with the idea of “learned helplessness” or “attention seeking” behaviors that seek out assistance. It can be difficult to understand the observable behavior in terms of a child demonstrating a need for assistance as a form of communication – which generally leads me to think that the child is experiencing some type of stressors that need to be identified.
Patterns of Interfering Behaviors: An interfering behavior is one that a child demonstrates instead of the desired or expected concept of skills. Not all interfering behaviors are aggressive or purposeful; however, many times they are (e.g., hitting, biting, throwing). At times, behaviors can interfere given that the child (by choice or otherwise) is not able to maintain or establish attention, walks away from interactions or tasks, or even outright refusal to participate. Sometimes these are unconscious (sensory/biological); so this pattern has less to do with challenging behavior and more to do with a barrier to learning.
Comments: This one is complex!! And again – I see overlaps with the others. A struggling student would refuse to participate in tasks that involved drawing or writing because his perception of his own work caused him frustration – not as “perfect” as he wanted it to be – so he would tear up his work or refuse to participate . . .when the thing he needed most were more learning opportunities. Granted – there were other issues at play in this classroom (expectations were too high with too much “table work”. He certainly did a good job of letting the teacher know his feelings about her practice 😉
Patterns of Unexpected Performance: Patterns of unexpected performance represent instances where the child’s performance would not have been anticipated or expected according to typical development. For example, a child was demonstrating a later skill before demonstrating an earlier skill, or was emerging across early and later skills simultaneously. This pattern may also represent situations where children have a tendency to demonstrate inconsistent performance, to the extent that they may excel or struggle on the same skill without a clear explanation for the difference in performance.
Comments: In considering unexpected performance I think that most children exhibit this from time to time based on their strengths and abilities. But the patterns that I find notable range greatly. An example: that a child who cannot socially communicate with others or demonstrate understanding of a story is able to read written words or sentences that are beyond his age expectations.
Part II: Example of at Least One Pattern
I self-identify my learning as having components of latency and quality patterns. I am first and foremost a visual learner. But that modality alone is not always sufficient to embed knew knowledge into my aging brain :). I also find the need for additional auditory learning experiences – as well as time to discuss and find practical applications. This is particularly true in overcoming the patterns I exhibit – in how quickly (latency) I acquire new concepts and in my attention to detail (quality). As I move through the second half of my fifth decade – my needs in these areas are intensified (and sometimes need to be amplified). I often need to see and hear something more than once. I also need to find multiple avenues of processing new information by finding applications to situations that are relevant and meaningful in the work that I am actually doing with teachers and children. When I have these opportunities, my learning patterns do not create a barrier to or inhibit me from moving forward in my development as a learner.
Response to Daniel:
I really appreciated your statement that “they may not have had the opportunity to develop foundation skills because of the experiences they have had before starting school”. You are right on target! Our expectations of what a child “brings” to preschool can help or hinder the decisions about what to teach. The idea that Tier 3 addresses foundational skills is only one part of the criteria. Determining what is lack of exposure vs disability/delay takes time and great care as the teacher identifies what each student is in need of and then diligently instructs through play, measuring progress along the way. And some children will need more or less time to demonstrate that they are able to make progress toward expected outcomes. I often think that most preschool teachers live IN the messy middle!
Are all Tier 3 needs IEP worthy?
Not necessarily. All children will demonstrate needs at all Tiers from time to time, because they are complex, growing, changing, developing beings. But there may be a time when a child’s progress is stalled, the student is struggling, and the outcome of the skill that they are struggling with is foundational to learning. It is at these times that teachers often contact their team member from special education. They have identified a problem with a child who is not demonstrating their expected outcome despite individualized support. I often hear “He just doesn’t get it – I think he needs an IEP”. While it can be time consuming, the needed response is to collaborate with the teaching team to re-evaluate their data. Is the outcome part of a pattern or is it limited? Is there a piece missing somewhere in the learning process (looking at Kristie’s zig-zag process) that needs some re-teaching, support, and simple scaffolding? Often the issue is challenging behavior. Social skills and self-regulation skills may need an individualized approach that is sensitive to the child’s experiences beyond the classroom that may include trauma, cultural differences, language acquisition, and more. In these case’s the individualized service may require a broader team of support that is not related to IEP services (family, counselors, social workers, etc.). But even with less complex issues there will be times that any child might need individualized instruction in an expected outcome, but does not have a disability/delay that requires an IEP.
How would you define “the messy middle”?
The messy middle describes those instances when a child seems to move in and out of the need for individual to targeted to universal instruction, but does not seem to land consistently in any one place. The student I described in the 4.1 discussion board was such a child. Due to ongoing stressors and changes in his environment outside of school, his progress was a bit like the ups and downs of a rollercoaster. The team had to remain very consistent. Just when the teacher thought he was “on track” behaviorally he might have a stressful start to his day and come to school ready to test and see if the people at school really meant what they said and if they could be trusted. Messy describes the process, and the team had to work together consistently to determine that while many days required Tier 3 instruction – this was still not a child needing an IEP. He may in the future if the challenges he experiences continue, and he is not able to make progress in the skills that he needs to build his resilience.
Can a Tier 2 (targeted) need be IEP worthy?
All children are “triangles”, including children with disabilities/delays. All children have strengths and needs. A student eligible for special education may have the strengths to be able to participate in targeted instruction groups in their blended classroom, but may have a need within that group that requires specialized instruction to address the outcome. This child may really benefit from receiving that IEP worthy support so that they can fully participate with their peers in that group setting.
In what way can a child who is eligible for special education have Tier 1 needs?
All children have strengths, and the majority of children who are eligible for special education have the ability to participate full and make progress in some areas of their school day. These Tier I needs may be supported with accommodations or modifications, but I still consider a child receiving these as a child fully participating as a child with the same universal needs as their peers
Reply to Daniel’s post:
Bravo! Your comments on universal design summed up the soap box I often stand on. Your comments were both encouraging and realistic. We all have limitations within our work systems. It is encouraging to hear that at times special education teachers work or consult in the general education classrooms. Supporting movement between developmental progressions is a realistic approach. But as you said, constraints on time and resources may limit this. I appreciate your commitment to supporting the processes you have in place and support your hope that we could support all learners together through the blended practices found in universal design. Thank you Daniel!
My work is also in the Anchorage School District but in a different position from Olena’s. I work primarily with “general education” (in Title I schools, through Title I and limited state funding) pre-kindergarten classes (due to age, child will attend kindergarten the fall following prek). Our CARE program provides consultation, collaboration, and services students (and their teachers) who are struggling.
Typically, I find two types of children. The first is a child with an obvious delay/disability whose families were unaware of the need and the resources available for support (like the assessment teams that Olena works with and our district’s special education preschool classes). These children we tend to “fast track” to set up IEP services within the inclusive setting of their general education classroom.
The other type of child falls more within the realm of this discussion. This is a child who is struggling to keep up with peers and the expectations of the classroom. The teacher is expected to try targeted interventions prior to submitting a “student concern form” to our team. At that time, I am invited into the process to begin to help tease out whether this is a disability/delay or difference. While this is the “formal” process, the reality is that I may have already been in that classroom for another reason, or simply due to my relationships with the teachers – we have had casual conversations about their interventions prior to a formal request. I have many years of teaching both “sped”, “gen ed”, and “inclusive” (blended) classes. That and multiple years of working together have given us great opportunities to build good working relationships based on mutual trust.
Since our preschool programs do not benefit from the formal support systems that are in place in K-6 (see Olena’s post), I work collaboratively with the prek teachers to determine what course of action to follow. My role was new when I took this position 5 years ago, and I do so wish that I had had this training at that time. I was told at that time that my job would be evolving as we gradually begin to serve students with “special needs” in their regular classrooms rather than move them to “self-contained” preschool classroom. So, every year we evolve!
A good example is in one classroom this last year, we identified three students who were really struggling. Two of them were the first type of child I mentioned, and both were eligible for IEP’s under the autism category. I am happy to say they both had great years and will getting IEP services in blended classrooms in kindergarten.
Another child had a year of ups and downs – and the teacher and I “felt” like we moved through a zig zag! His needs were highly impacted by outside circumstances. His developmental profile appeared to be within normal limits with periodic deficits in his ability to self-regulate emotions, and maintain appropriate relationships with peers and adults. We drew together a team including the principal, behavior interventionist, teacher, teaching assistant, and myself (to provide consultation). We regularly reviewed his progress and behaviors, identified what parts of his day were problematic, and identified actions that the classroom teaching team (with backup support from the others) needed to adjust. We used a variety or resources and best practices to guide us.
If we had used the developmental progressions to guide our process of analyzing this child’s needs, I do think we would have had more streamlined discussions and hopefully better outcomes. The team did consider proposing an evaluation at different points in the year, but each time the evidence before us led us to continue as we were. We did document extensively so that the next year’s team (different school) can see what worked. The team all agreed that this was not a child in need of an IEP, but that he may benefit from the CSF (Creating Successful Futures) program that would be available next year in kindergarten. I would also like to say that each of my classrooms are in different schools – and that the only reason I was able to work so closely with this particular team, was because of the principal’s commitment to inclusive, collaborative practices – and supporting students who experience ACES/childhood trauma. The directives of our school district look different in each school that I serve.
My ideal world would have universal preschool with regional centers that are designed for young children, blended classrooms and collaborative team teaching services on site and in place to meet the needs of all students!
In our school district, we have 15 Title I preschool classrooms – each in a different school building. My role is to support these teachers as they have concerns regarding the developmental progress of their students. We have developed a system that requires teachers to start the DDDM process while I provide consult support. In most cases (though never all) we are using a process where we cycle through DDDM at several levels that meet at least it’s first four purposes.
I have found that there are two challenges that I face every year. The first is logistical due to the locations of our programs and the itinerant nature of my work. In each school, each year (often due to staff or role changes), it is necessary for me to put together an assessment team at that school. And since each school and every professional have their own past experiences, expectations, caseloads, and schedules – it can be very challenging to bring together a team that can work together on the DDDM process. Also – since we do not have universal preschool within the district – many professionals who need to be involved in the process are unfamiliar with working with children younger than kindergarten age. With that said – I am generally pleased with the effort they make to come alongside our students and families – and while analyzing and interpreting data on the development of young children is very challenging for them – they tend to “step up” as we lean on each other’s and the parent’s expertise to make decisions.
The second challenge is similar to those I have heard others describe. Different teachers bring varied data when referring a child. I also find that each teacher has their own “baggage” – in their own past experiences or their own “shark music” as Kristie so aptly calls it. And then, sadly – there are always a few cases where a teacher just wants a child “out” of their class due to challenging behaviors. When I have the opportunity to consult early in the process – I find that we can minimize the problems that can arise from these. Keeping the communication lines open and flowing is so very important to the DDDM process!
To Dawn and Olena –
I appreciate both of your responses! Working in the same district as Olena – I see that our district evaluation center where Olena works as being VERY efficient and successful in their work with families and children. Their referrals come through venues other than school district preschool programs – and they have developed a successful DDDM process. I also appreciate Olena’s and Dawn’s comments on the struggles faced when trying to use this process in a school setting – where referrals come from teachers rather than parents. It is a very different experience and is where I “live” in my role in the school district. It requires a different approach and I also find that I have to “tweek” the process every year – as we hopefully continue to do a better job of pulling all the pieces of DDDM together.
I really appreciated your thoughtful analysis of Spencer and the guiding questions for finding out further information. I liked your comment about him not understanding the concept of homeschooling – just understanding that he likes the game. Your comment regarding “use the child’s wants to engage his learning” is such an important one for a very young child with autism – and yes, it is worth the investigation. This little guy has decided school is not where he wants to be – but also because he is young his team has a chance to turn it around if they think outside the box and work together!