Every child is unique, and so is their Assessment and IEP!
We all agree that teaching is an Art, it is a noble profession and a great responsibility. We all understand how mainstream education functions, roughly because most of us have experienced it first-hand. Under the umbrella of Education, special education is not the obvious thought, it is the conscience stricken thinking that finds it. Specialised education has always been an enigma. How does one go about special education? Are the goals different than mainstream education? How do the children benefit from it in the setting of Inclusive Education?
Approximately 89% of all children with disabilities receive no formal education. When 95% of what we see and hear aid in learning it is almost impossible to receive an education. A child with deafblindness has odds stacked against him/her. Sense International India’s vision to make a child with deafblindness independent took them on a journey to develop a way to educate those who had no resources to absorb the education. A stimulating education is what we were after.
The beginning of learning for children with deafblindness is different. An Individualised Educational Plan (IEP) has always played a vital role for our children and adults with deafblindness. When a child enters the programme, one of the first things an Educator does is to plan an IEP for the child by assessing their needs. IEP is a specialised curriculum; it connects and creates an opportunity for parents, neighbours, therapists, family members and all the people involved in improving the lives of persons with deafblindness.
What does developing a high quality IEP require?
Developing a high-quality IEP requires pre-planning, setting annual & short term goals and the support requirements. For its successful execution, we need to understand the process, our roles as a teacher or a parent with the child. The IEP goals are carried out for a specific period, i.e. one year and are divided into four short term goals for the child. Even during the pandemic, our partner organisations all across the country continue working online with children and adults by following the IEP.
IEP is a team approach that is required to fulfil the needs of the child. Before planning, a multidisciplinary team consisting of parents, teacher, therapist, medical professionals and all related service personnel should decide a goal to be taught in a specific time, and it should be accessible for all the team members before implementation.
Some of the benefits of an IEP are that it creates opportunity for the child as well as the parents and family members to lead a better life. It provides educational, personal and overall development as well as actionable and realistic plans for the child for a specific time. As the IEP is designed and planned as per the individual requirements, it promotes a successful & purposeful future.
The need for assessment
Assessment is the stepping stone in a child’s progress to learn and be independent. It is also said to be the foundation of IEP. By understanding the various needs of a child with deafblindness, we can strategise our goals and prioritise our methods. The needs are not just limited to medical but also their social, educational, communication and psychological needs. This information is useful for the educator to gain knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of the child and be able to evaluate their requirements such as the assistive aids, teaching curriculum and methods. So, one can say that IEP and Assessment are the two sides of a coin as there will be no value without the other. IEP is ambitious whereas assessment is pragmatic.
Functional and observational assessment are seen as the most appropriate for the children with deafblindness. The functional assessment is useful in understanding the capability of the child, such as their ability to identify different colours or use their limbs to throw any object at a distance. Besides, to understand the needs, we have to build a personal connection with the child and be directly involved with them. We have to observe their behaviour and reactions in varying environments such as park, gymnasium, speech therapy or vision sensory room, classroom or even home. Also, we need to recognise the role of parents, caregivers and include them in the assessment. Vision and hearing assessments are integral aspects of the functional assessments to understand their medical needs and aids requirements.
Steps to carry out a Functional Assessment:
Why should you assess?
Prior to the assessment (vision/hearing), be clear about the reason for assessment - whether to get a general understanding of the child’s use of vision or hearing, or to support the communication areas or any other skills.
Collect all the required information about the child with family, medical history, family background, case history, observe the child through different activities, his/her favourite activities, objects, and the things which child may dislike.
Observe the child in several sessions, during different parts of the day. Get to know the child. Know what the child can see or hear, how he/she uses his/her vision/hearing for, the way child uses his/her head and movements when using vision/hearing, what lighting/sound conditions enables the best visual/auditory response, the time requirements, the pace of the activity etc.Observe the child with familiar environment, people, friends, family members in which the child is doing.
Plan the session in such a way that you have the place, materials ready for the child for classroom, therapy and plan how you will do the assessment in a formal way.
We believe that whatever work we do is with the child and not for the child. By keeping this motto in mind, we can make our assessments and activities interactive and playful so that the child is interested in them. We need to be patient so that they can take their time to adapt and enjoy their surroundings. Apart from the eyes and ears, the educators try to make use of other senses as well. We have to keep their surroundings and environment as child friendly as possible.
One of the crucial things to remember is to never pressurise or stress a child to respond. Give them time to answer and try to engage in activities that they enjoy and are age-appropriate such as art and craft, games like peek a boo, pretend and play.
At times, despite our efforts, we are not able to see the desired progress in the child, and we wonder why. There can be a couple of reasons for it as our focus and expectations, child’s surroundings, intensity and nature of the tasks or maybe the inappropriate assessments.
Always remember to bond and communicate with the child, be consistent and motivate them to do better.
The focus is always the child.
Authors Mercy Chingnunmuang- Training-Officer, Sense International(India) Sukrati Rastogi- Programme-Officer, Sense International(India)
Considering its importance, our expert professionals in Sense India had taken a session on Individualised Educational Plan for Children with Deafblindness and Assessing the Current Functioning Level of Persons with Deafblindness & MD. You can access further information by registering for the National Webinar.