Disclaimer | By: Gavin Cosgrave | Reading Time: 4.6 minutes

Individual Education Plans (IEPs)

What is an Individual Education Plan (IEP)?

Essentially, an IEP is a plan that is developed so that an educational programme is tailored to the needs of an individual child. The IEP would be developed with input from the child's parents as well as through assessments carried various different professionals, such as Teachers, Behaviour Analysts, Clinical Psychologists, Educational Psychologists, Occupational Therapists, Speech and Language Therapists, etc.

A child's parents and a multi-disciplinary team combine their expertise in order to develop the best education plan for the child.

Assessment Informs IEP Development

Although there are different regulations regarding the development of IEPs in different parts of the world, it is common for assessments to form the back-bone of the IEPs development. Sometimes these assessments may simply be analysing the child’s progress within a specific academic area over the past year to identify if changes need to be made.

In other cases assessment tools may be used to identify if the child is lacking skills in certain areas (e.g. academic, motor skills, social skills, self-management etc.). Some of the child’s “abilities” are often referred to as the child’s “repertoire” such as their “motor repertoire” or their “verbal repertoire”.

Showing assessment is used to devise the Individual Education Plan.
Assessments are used to inform the decision making about the IEP.

Categories within an IEP

The IEP itself is typically broken up into different categories which might include Academic Skills, Motor Skills, Self-Management, Social Skills, Language, Imitation and many many more. Each of these categories would be further broken down into more specific skills. For example, the Academic Skills might be broken down into Spelling, Writing and Reading skills.

The Individual Education Plan is broken down into main categories and these are each broken down into specific academic areas.
The IEP is broken down into categories which are then further broken down into specific educational skills.

Categories & Long-Term Objectives (LTOs)

For each of these different skills a “Long-Term Objective” (LTO) may be created which is basically the long-term educational goal of this particular programme.

An LTO could be anything, for example, the child being able to discriminate between 10 different colours, being able to tie their shoelaces, dress themselves, to read a series of books, to know their multiplication times tables etc. The LTO could be absolutely anything and each skill could have more than just one LTO.

The skills are further broken down into Long-Term Objectives.
Each of the main skills are broken down into specific Long-Term Objectives (LTOs).

Short-Term Objectives (STOs)

To achieve the Long-Term Objectives (LTOs), they are broken down into smaller ""parts" called Short-Term Objectives (STOs). Basically, instead of going straight into teaching the LTO, which might be too difficult a task for the child, a combination of STOs are used to “build up” the skill needed to complete the LTO. The STOs will continue to be taught until finally the LTO has been achieved.

Each Long-Term Objective is broken down into smaller Short-Term Objectives.
Every Long-Term Objectives will have smaller Short-Term Objectives that will be taught in progression until the LTO skill is achieved.

An IEP Example

As an example, say the assessment has identified that Jane cannot yet match uppercase letters i.e. when Jane is given a card with an uppercase letter on it and asked to “Put B with B” she is unable to match the letter she is given to another uppercase B that is within an array of other uppercase letters on the table in front of her.

Matching uppercase letters from an array of 2 other letters.
An example of the matching uppercase letters programme from an array of 2 other letters.

Within the IEP, this task would likely be classed as an Academic Skill and may be further categorised into Reading. From there the Long-Term Objective (LTO) might be defined as “Jane will be able to match all 26 uppercase letters with an identical uppercase letter from an array of 10 letters”.

So when Jane is able to match all uppercase letters with identical uppercase letters from an array of 10 other letters this LTO will be completed or “met”.

To get to the stage where the LTO is achieved, Short-Term Objectives (STOs) are created that will build up this skill piece by piece. So the first STO, referred to as “STO1”, might only be teaching Jane to match the letters “A” and “B” to identical letters from an array of just 2 other letters.

Once Jane is able to match these letters at a certain accuracy (e.g. 90% correct out of 20 attempts) a new STO might be created which would be called “STO2”. This STO might teach Jane to match the letters “C” and “D” to identical letters from an array of 2 other letters. Again, when Jane is getting a certain amount correct, another STO will be created.

This creation of STOs will continue and each one will gradually increase the difficulty of the task until finally the LTO is met. So for this letter matching programme, the LTO would only be met when Jane can match all 26 uppercase letters to identical letters from an array of 10 other letters.

A full breakdown of one specific matching uppercase letters programme, including assessment, IEP, Academic Area, Skill, LTO and STOs.
The breakdown of an IEP from the initial assessment all the way through to the specific STOs.

STOs and Discrete Trials

A small thing to take note of is that within Applied Behaviour Analysis programmes, the vast majority of STOs are written out as “Discrete Trial Scripts". However, those working within ABA typically do not use the term “discrete trial script” when referring to the discrete trial script and instead say “STO”.

They do this because every STO is a discrete trial script. Additionally, because they are numbered (e.g. STO1, STO2, STO3 etc.) it’s an easy way to communicate for the teachers. As an example:

STO1
  • (A) Teacher gives Jane an uppercase letter and says “Put __ with __” (Letters A and B).
  • (B) Jane will match the uppercase letter to the identical uppercase letter.
  • (P) Independent. 1Sd and 2 S-Delta*
  • (C) FR1 Praise
  • (corr) Least-to-Most Prompts**
STO2
  • (A) Teacher gives Jane an uppercase letter and says “Put __ with __” (Letters C and D).
  • (B) Jane will match the uppercase letter to the identical uppercase letter.
  • (P) Independent. 1Sd and 2 S-Delta*
  • (C) FR1 Praise
  • (corr) Least-to-Most Prompts
STO3
  • (A) Teacher gives Jane an uppercase letter and says “Put __ with __” (Letters W, X, Y and Z).
  • (B) Jane will match the uppercase letter to the identical uppercase letter.
  • (P) Independent. 1Sd and 8 S-Delta***
  • (C) FR1 Praise
  • (corr) Least-to-Most Prompts

* This is a behaviour analysis way of telling the teacher to put down 1 card that is the “correct” answer and 2 cards that are the “incorrect” answers.

** This is a prompt level that uses the “least” amount of guidance first in an effort to show the child what the correct answer was leading up to possibly needing to use the “most” amount of guidance – therefore “least-to-most prompts”.

*** This is a behaviour analysis way of telling the teacher to put down 1 card that is the “correct” answer and 8 cards that are the “incorrect” answers.


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