Getting Started

I want to make this as easy as possible for you. Below are the steps to incorporating adaptive and life skills into your child’s special education program.  I’ve provided supporting information for many of the steps for your further exploration. 

How This Site Works

Measuring Success is Highly Individualized

I realize that everyone has their own ruler when it comes to measuring success. Some people with autism will go on to be fully independent adults, others will continue to depend on a varied degree of supports into adulthood. Regardless of a person’s level of functioning, acquiring adaptive skills is likely to increase functioning for adult life. This site is designed to meet you, or your child / adolescent or young adult on the autism spectrum, where you are.

I have been reduced to tears over my son using a new skill that might seem minor to someone else. I am realistic that my son will always require full support, while others may require partial or no support and be completely independent. Everyone’s ruler is different.

Learn About Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance

All Things in your child’s IEP flow from the Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance (PLAAPF). This is also referred to as the PLOP (Present Levels of Performance). 

Simply put, the PLAAFP on your child’s current IEP is a statement that describes the levels at which your child is currently working academically and functionally. This includes a description of a student’s strengths and needs in both areas.  While education is more than academics, for the sake of examining your child’s adaptive skills, we are focusing only on the functional performance portion of the PLAAFP.

Statement of Present Levels of Educational Performance– Regulation 34 CFR §300.347(a)(1)

The IEP for each child with a disability must include . . . a statement of the child’s present levels of educational performance, including

(i) How the child’s disability affects the child’s involvement and progress in the general curriculum (i.e., the same curriculum as for nondisabled children); or

(ii) For preschool children, as appropriate, how the disability affects the child’s participation in appropriate activities;”

To learn more about the PLAAFP, go to:

http://www.yourspecialeducationrights.com/federally-mandated-elements-of-an-iep/

https://iris.peabody.vanderbilt.edu/module/iep01/cresource/q3/p06/#content

An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a written statement of the educational program designed to meet your child’s individual needs. It is a legal document that is developed for each public school child who receives special education.  The IEP is designed to create an opportunity for teachers, parents, school administrators, related services personnel, and students (when appropriate) to work together to improve educational results for children with disabilities. 

http://www.yourspecialeducationrights.com/idea-basics/

https://www2.ed.gov/parents/needs/speced/iepguide/index.html#introduction

For a deeper dive

https://sites.ed.gov/idea/regs/b/d/300.320/a

Functional skills are understood to be the skills we all need for the routines of everyday  living. There is no definitive list of functional skills because it should be driven by the unique needs of your child.

Review your child’s Present Levels Functional Performance

Locate your child’s IEP and find the section on the document that says Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance. If you don’t have a physical or digital copy of your child’s IEP, contact your child’s school and request it.

You should be able to determine if your child’s present levels of functional performance accurately reflect your child’s true needs.

State and district documentation of this information varies. For example, some PLAAFP statements are written as a single summary that covers all areas in which the student needs support.  Other PLAAFP statements are written as multiple smaller descriptions that address each area of need separately.

Regardless of the way it is organized, the PLAAFP statement must contain information for each identified area of need.  Needs are based on the results of evaluations conducted on your child. serves as the foundation from which all other components of the IEP will be built.

The PLAAPF is widely informed by evaluations.  So let’s get on to evaluations.

Request an IEP Meeting

Below is a sample letter. Change the content to suit your individual needs.

Dear IEP Team,

I have reviewed (your child’s name) present levels of functioning on her IEP and I have concerns about her functional skills.  

While I am not disinterested in discussing my child’s academic achievement, I would like to request an IEP team meeting with the sole purpose of discussing my child’s functional skills and conducting further assessments to update the present levels of functional performance.  

It is my understanding that there are some common standardized assessments available to evaluate functional skills typically used for students on the autism spectrum, they include the ABAS (Adaptive Behavior Assessment) and the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales.  Additionally, it is my understanding that there are two skills-based assessment and tracking systems that provide a starting point for IEP goals, they are the ABLLS (Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills) or the AFLS (Assessment of Functional Living Skills).  Our district may have others, but I understand these are common, especially for students on the autism spectrum.

I would like to learn which assessments the district has available and become familiar with them.  Prior to the meeting, and in preparation for the meeting, I would like to review these assessments with appropriate IEP team member(s) so I have a full understanding of the options of evaluations and the reasons for determining which one to choose.  

Thank you,

(Your name here)

Use this letter if your child is approaching Transition age

Dear IEP Team,

Given the fact that (your child’s name) is approaching the age to start the transition process, I would like to conduct transition-specific evaluations to update her present levels of functioning in preparation of developing goals around employment, seconding education or training and independent living.  

While I am not disinterested in discussing her academic achievement, I would like to request an IEP team meeting with the sole purpose of discussing her functional skills and conducting further assessments to update the present levels of functional performance.

It is my understanding that there are some common standardized assessments available to evaluate functional skills typically used for students on the autism spectrum, they include the ABAS (Adaptive Behavior Assessment) and the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales.  Additionally, it is my understanding that there are two skills-based assessment and tracking systems that provide a starting point for IEP goals, they are the ABLLS (Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills) or the AFLS (Assessment of Functional Living Skills).  Our district may have others, but I understand these are common, especially for students on the autism spectrum.

Additionally, I understand that there are transition specific assessments that can be conducted.  I’ve learned that the TPI (Transition Planning Inventory) is a good starting place to assess all of the IDEA requirements for Transition. I am not suggesting that this is the only appropriate transition assessment but a starting point for me to learn from the IEP team what transition-specific assessments are available and you believe would be fitting to conduct.

I have come to learn that I can also include a person-centered planning 

In preparation for the meeting, I would like to review the transition-specific assessments the school has in the district. I would also like to meet with the transition coordinator (or) the person(s) responsible for conducting transition-specific assessments, to review the evaluations so I have an understanding of them in preparation for the IEP team meeting. 

I look forward to setting up the meeting.

Thank you,

(Your name here)

An IEP team meeting is the gathering of your child’s special education team to fulfill the purpose of the meeting.  

Learn More About IEP Meetings:

https://sites.ed.gov/idea/regs/b/d/300.321

You should know that your child must be evaluated by the school team minimally every three years, this is called the triennial evaluation.  However, a parent or school team can initiate evaluating a child sooner if updated information is needed.  

Watch Series on School and Independent Evaluations:

http://www.yourspecialeducationrights.com/independent-evaluations/

https://sites.ed.gov/idea/regs/b/d/300.304

Statement of Needed Transition Services– Regulation 34 CFR §300.347(b)(2)

The IEP must include . . . for each student with a disability beginning at age 16 (or younger, if determined appropriate by the IEP team), a statement of needed transition services for the student, including, if appropriate, a statement of the interagency responsibilities or any needed linkages.”

Definition of “Transition Services”–Regulation 34 CFR §300.29

(a) “transition services” means a coordinated set of activities for a student with a disability that: 

(1) Is designed within an outcome-oriented process, that promotes movement from school to post-school activities, including post-secondary education, vocational training, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation;

(2) Is based on the individual student’s needs, taking into account the student’s preferences and interests; and

(3) Includes: (i) Instruction; (ii) Related services; (iii) Community experiences; (iv) The development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives; and (v) If appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation.

(b) Transition services for students with disabilities may be special education, if provided as specially designed instruction or related services, if required to assist a student with a disability to benefit from special education.”

Watch Series on Transition

http://www.yourspecialeducationrights.com/transition-to-adulthood/

https://lifeskillslady.com/transition/

https://www.pacer.org/transition/learning-center/laws/idea.asp

A Person-Centered Planning is an ongoing problem-solving process used to help people with disabilities plan for their future. In person-centered planning, parents, school teams and other stake-holders of the student, come together to focus on the student and that person’s vision of what they would like to do in the future. This “person-centered” team meets to identify opportunities for the focus person to develop personal relationships, participate in their community, increase control over their own lives, and develop the skills and abilities needed to achieve these goals. Person Centered Planning depends on the commitment of a team of individuals who care about the focus person. These individuals take action to make sure that the strategies discussed in planning meetings are implemented.

Learn More 

https://portal.ct.gov/DDS/SelfAdvocacySelfDetermination/Self-Determination-Fact-Sheets/Fact-Sheet—Person-Centered-Planning

Attend IEP Team Meeting with the Purpose of Planning the Assessments

Decide with the team which specific assessments you will be conducting.

Determine the estimated amount of time the assessments should take and plan the next meeting to review the evaluations accordingly.

Request that you would like to receive copies of the assessments prior to the PPT so you can be prepared for the meeting. You might also like to request that the team members who conduct the assessments review them with you prior to the next meeting. This will allow you to not take time out of the IEP team meeting to understand them.

Review Completed Assessment with the Person Who Conducted them Before you Attend the IEP Team Meeting to Review the Assessments

Since it’s a lot to digest, this step is helpful to avoid reading the assessments for the first time while you are at the meeting. Remember, your IEP team is there to assist you. 

Review Your Child’s Present Levels of Functioning on the PLAAFP

Refer back to your child’s current PLAAFP to determine the gaps between the current IEP and the needs identified through the assessments.

Submit Your Parent Input and Concerns

Take advantage of the fact that you are a member of your child’s IEP team and you are afforded the opportunity to submit your concerns and input.  Addditionally, you are afforded the right to submit your input toward the development of your child’s goals.

Prioritize deficit areas and document this input to send to the team for their consideration of updating the PLAAPF and developing goals to flow from the PLAAFP. 

When including your input on IEP goals, consider writing them to be Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Bound (SMART) and what you will be able to observe your child doing in one year’s time as it relates to the goal.

At the IEP team meeting, the school team, with your input, will update your child’s functional performance on the PLAAFP and add IEP goals to flow from the updated PLAAFP.

Below is a sample letter. Change the content to suit your individual needs.

Dear IEP Team,

It’s been so helpful for me to review the adaptive evaluation(s) on my child. Thank you so much for providing it to me and reviewing it with me.

I am enclosing my parent input toward updating the PLAAFP and the development of the goals.  I would like to request that I receive the team’s draft IEP goals prior to the meeting.

It’s very important to me to be as prepared as I can be when we, as a team, discuss updates to the PLAAFP and the goals that will flow from the PLAAFP. 

Many thanks,

Your name here

S – Specific The goal should name the exact knowledge or skill you will like your child to possess.

M – Measurable The goal must be written to determine how you will measure progress. The way it’s measured determines how it will be achieved. If written with understandable measures, you will know when your child has achieved it.

A – Achievable The goal should be written to be able to be accomplished.

R – Realistic The goal should be written to be achieved with full consideration of your child’s abilities. While you should never underestimate your child’s abilities, goals should be practical for your child.

T – Time-Bound In consideration of the fact that IEPs are written for one year, the goal should be written to consider what your child will accomplish in one year’s time.

NOTE: You will find SMART goals interpreted using different words to represent each letter, but the general intention is the same.

Go to the IEP Team Meeting to Establish the Changes in Your Child’s Program

With your input, the team will update your child’s Present Levels of Functional Performance and determine which goals are incorporated into the IEP.

NOTE: This is NOT legal advice.  These steps do not include your procedural safeguards for each step.  Please remember that your IEP team is there to support you through this process, so do not hesitate to reach out to them to assist you.

Procedural safeguards are the rules that govern special education under the IDEA.  

Your procedural safeguard must be provided to you by your IEP team. 

https://sites.ed.gov/idea/regs/b/e/300.504

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is federal legislation that ensures eligible students with a disability are provided with Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) that is tailored to their individual needs.

https://sites.ed.gov/idea/about-idea/