The needs of children with disabilities as well as their families are supported by various learning programs that are initiated to assist them in meeting educational and learning goals from the early childhood till adolescence. This paper will focus on discussing four learning plans such as Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP), Individualized Education Program (IEP), 504 Plan, and Individualized Transition Plan (ITP), which are called to ensure a comprehensive identification of a child’s needs and smoothly prepare him or her to school and then to adulthood based on collaboration between parents and educators along with early interventions.
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IFSP is a plan that targets children with suspected disabilities under age three and their families in an attempt to assist them with developmental issues. A detailed evaluation of a child’s needs as well as concerns of his or her family members determine the process of IFSP development (“What is the difference,” 2011). Namely, it includes data regarding a child’s current condition in all aspects, outcomes, and services required. As for the legal requirements, the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and state laws oblige schools to take responsibility for designing IFSPs and maintaining their successful implementation (“What is the difference,” 2011). To differentiate instructions and assessments, IFSPs imply quarterly review, team determination of interventions and outcomes, as well as a comprehensive consideration of a child’s cognitive, social, and adaptive conditions (Gatmaitan & Brown, 2016). There are several online resources that provide additional information for parents and educators such as Pacer Center (www.pacer.org/ec/ifsp.asp) and Early Childhood Technical Assistance (ECTA) (ectacenter.org).
IEP and 504 Plan are developed for children aged from three to 21, respectively for those who receive specific educational services and require additional supports to overcome challenges they face in learning. Spiel, Evans, and Langberg (2014) state that IEP targets children who are in need of a certain accommodation regarding difficulties with education, while 504 Plan is for children with emotional and physical disabilities, having a condition that largely affects their daily activities. The development of both programs is associated with annual evaluations, achieving academic success, identification of measurement tools, and team collaboration between parents and school officials (Spiel et al., 2014). The legal requirements to the mentioned programs vary since they are regulated by different laws. If IDEA ensures proper attention to educational problems of children with disabilities, then Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities as a federal civil rights law.
The differentiation of assessment and instructions in IEP is provided by paying attention to parents’ concerns, stating annual academic goals, including guardians into the process, describing the least restrictive environments (LREs), and ensuring team membership. In other words, IEP presents a legal document with all the above components. In its turn, 504 Plan implies some accommodation and assistance for children who may learn in a typical classroom despite their disabilities (The Understood Team, n.d.). For example, children with asthma or those with allergy on peanuts may require specific environments, and they are eligible to receive 504 Plan. The differentiating issues involve the identification of a child’s specific needs, placing him or her in front of a usual classroom, requiring educators to guide this child, and providing necessary equipment, technology, and other learning tools and materials. The following resources seem to be useful for families and educators to learn more about 504 Plan: Care.com Community (www.care.com/c/stories/842/my-top-resources-for-504-plans/) and Tourette Association of America (www.tourette.org/resources/overview/tools-for-educators/accommodations-education-rights/iep-504-accommodations/). To have more information on IEP, one may access Center for Parent Information and Resources (www.parentcenterhub.org/iep/) and Pacer Center (www.pacer.org/ec/ifsp.asp).
One more learning program for children with disabilities is Individualized Transition Plan (ITP) that targets 14-16 years old adolescents and prepares them for a smooth transition into adulthood. This program presents educational assistance provided by school officials in cooperation with parents and their children. According to Cheatham, Smith, Elliott, and Friedline (2013), ITP is developed by the above team and focuses on aspirations and needs of a student regarding his or her future independent life in a varying degree. Likewise the programs that were described in this paper earlier, ITP focuses on a student’s weak and strong points as well as opportunities available to a particular child. IDEA mandates the assignment and maintenance of this program based on the requirements of continuous education and monitoring of children with disabilities.
ITP uses a comprehensive assessment tool to differentiate instructions, which are expected to develop their skills and knowledge in decision-making, problem-solving, and communication. The assessment of the mentioned life skills allows designing the best programs for students, thus addressing their learning needs and anticipating expectations (Cavendish, Connor, & Rediker, 2017). More to the point, ITP considers medical needs that may impede a student’s accomplishment of earning goals. Community support services and family education are regarded as the main interventions to ensure adequate medical conditions of children eligible for this program. Among the useful resources for educators and families, it is possible to point out Bright Hub Education (www.brighthubeducation.com/special-ed-law/1554-components-of-the-individualized-transition-plan-itp/) and Center for Parent Information and Resources (www.parentcenterhub.org/iep-transition/).
Cavendish, W., Connor, D. J., & Rediker, E. (2017). Engaging students and parents in transition-focused individualized education programs. Intervention in School and Clinic, 52(4), 228-235.
Cheatham, G. A., Smith, S. J., Elliott, W., & Friedline, T. (2013). Family assets, postsecondary education, and students with disabilities: Building on progress and overcoming challenges. Children and Youth Services Review, 35(7), 1078-1086.
Gatmaitan, M., & Brown, T. (2016). Quality in individualized family service plans: Guidelines for practitioners, programs, and families. Young Exceptional Children, 19(2), 14-32.
Spiel, C. F., Evans, S. W., & Langberg, J. M. (2014). Evaluating the content of individualized education programs and 504 plans of young adolescents with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. School Psychology Quarterly, 29(4), 452-468.
The Understood Team. (n.d.).The difference between IEPs and 504 plans. Web.
What is the difference between an IFSP and an IEP?. (2011). Web.