The world of special education is full of acronyms and language that is far from user-friendly. When writing an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), you may hear words like PLAAFP (Present Level of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance), FAPE (Free and Appropriate Education), IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), and many more. Having been a special education teacher before, even I had a difficult time remembering all of the lingo sometimes. When it comes time to write your child’s IEP, you want to know what to expect and how a proper IEP should look. From my experience, the PLAAFP gets written incorrectly more often than anything else, and this part of the IEP is likely the most important piece to worry about.
Shouldn’t I Worry About the Accommodations More?
Not really. The PLAAFP determines every other decision made with regards to the IEP. An improperly written PLAAFP could steer the team off-course. After all, it states your child’s current academic and functional needs. If the team does not know where your child is at, it becomes difficult to determine where to go. That’s why it’s important to know what to include in this part of the IEP.
General Guidelines of Writing the PLAAFP
The PLAAFP contains a positive statement of the student’s performance within the general education curriculum including the following:
- The impact of the disability
- Statement of academic strengths
- Statement of academic need/weaknesses
- Statement of functional abilities and needs
While this information must include your child’s weaknesses, it should also contain positive language to indicate an understanding that your child is able succeed in his or her goals.
The Impact of the Disability
Usually included within statements of academic and functional strengths and needs, the PLAAFP should discuss the ways in which your child’s disability has an impact on performance within the general education classroom.
Example: If your child has a learning disability in reading that includes problems with decoding words (breaking words down in order to read them fluently), the team might include a statement like, “Because Jane struggles with letter-sound correspondence, she has a difficult time with decoding 3rd grade level text and…”
Statement of Academic Strengths
You take the good with the bad in all areas of life, but I think when you’re discussing your child, it’s important to include every strength you can. If you’re talking about reading and your child has a problem with decoding and answering inference-based questions, you should include a statement of what your child can read and how much progress has been made in these areas.
Statement of Academic Need/Weaknesses
The purpose of an IEP is to address your child’s needs in the educational environment. Each PLAAFP should include details about your child’s performance in the classroom. This definitely needs to include areas in which your child needs the most support. While sometimes it seems like the statement of academic strengths is lacking, many times the area explaining academic needs is insufficient and generic. Remember that your child has an INDIVIDUALIZED Education Plan. If the PLAAFP contains generic statement that hold no real meaning, then you need to discuss details with the team to create a more individualized statement. What types of inference questions does Johnny struggle with the most? How much progress has he made since the beginning of the year (because data should also be included as part of the statement)? What can the team do to support his specific needs? What has worked/not worked for him?
Vague phrase: Rebecca can add well.
Specific phrase: Rebecca can answer double-digit addition problems with 80% accuracy.
There is no way to write an appropriate annual goal without the appropriate amount of information.
Statement of Functional Abilities and Needs
Ever wonder what the word “functional” means in the context of the classroom? A statement of functional abilities and needs might include information about how your child navigates the school environment. If your child has ADHD or Autism, there might be a statement about how well your child is able to focus within the general education classroom and what strategies work to increase the amount of time your child focuses within the classroom.
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Final Statement about PLAAFPs
If you need help understanding PLAAFPs and want to see more specifics about what it should look like, several websites include templates. There is a Prezi on PLAAFPs that may help out as well.
Remember: You can table an IEP meeting for a future date if the writing of the IEP team needs more time to create appropriate PLAAFPs for your child and gather the data necessary to make an annual goal that truly fits your child.