IEPs for Children Transitioning Into Grade School

IEPs ease the shift from early intervention programs to grade school

Girl (10-12) with Down syndrome using computer in computer lab, children in background
Children with Down syndrome can benefit from individualized education programs. Moodboard/Getty Images

When children with Down syndrome turn 3 years old, the law entitles them to start school in a designated program for youth with special needs. Parents and a transition team place children in the proper location based on their academic and physical special needs.

Early Intervention and Individualized Education Plans

The Local Early Intervention Program outlines a plan, known as the IFSP or Individualized Family Service Plan, for special needs children and their families.

The program is also responsible for transitioning children with Down syndrome and other special needs into the school system. The program arranges formal meetings for parents and educators to discuss a child’s development and to set preschool goals for the youth. 

When children with Down syndrome age into grade school, educators and parents devise an Individualized Education Plan for them. Many parents worry about this step because they fear their children aren't ready for school. But IEPs function to give children the tools they need to feel comfortable and safe. 

Accommodations for Children With Down Syndrome

Special education services for children with Down syndrome include transportation with adaptation to their special needs, weight and size. The school bus comes with an assistant who will help children to buckle up and remain seated and safe during the trip to school and back home. 

The child’s designated teacher should be a well-trained professional with a degree in special education.

The right teacher has the proper experience and techniques to support the child’s development and to help parents understand how to empower their child's education at home.

Neither preschool nor grade school should be considered daycare. Instead school should be viewed as a tool to initiate children’s approach to learning and to reinforce their basic abilities of independence, such as communication, potty training and self-care.

Basic skills such as learning to use school materials and to follow routines help children prepare for the upcoming years.

At this stage, children may also receive therapies offered at school as part of the IEP. Therapies should be based on children's individual needs and may be offered in a group setting while students sit in the classroom or in small groups. 

The IEP team, which includes parents, determines therapy services. No service can be provided or denied to children without parental approval. 

The Members of an IEP Team

The members of IEP teams vary but typically include parents of the child in question, the child's primary teacher, who will will track the youth's progress and goals, and an IEP specialist to help the team set goals and measure outcomes at regular intervals. Therapists assigned to the child may also make up the child's IEP team as well as children themselves once they grow old enough to provide input. Finally, teachers who instruct the student in a mainstream classroom may also belong to the team.

IEPs may feel overwhelming to parents, but such a reaction is normal. It’s not easy to understand how special education works and what to expect from the services children will receive. The IEP team is available to answer questions from parents and work together for the child's wellbeing. The ultimate goal is for children to feel appreciated because of their unique strengths and to feel respected as an individual without a label.

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