Individualised planning for young children with disability

Are you working with families to support children with disability? Use family-centred and strengths-based practices to provide Individual Education Plans (IEPs).

This professional learning will support educators to use family-centred and strengths-based practice to provide Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for young children with a disability and their families while working face to face and/or working remotely.

Learners will:

  • explore step by step processes for the development of individual education plans for young children with disability
  • apply this process to support ongoing learning for young children with a disability including when children are learning from home.

Target audience

Early intervention, preschool and early years’ educators, supervisors and leaders.

Modes of delivery

1. Individualised planning for young children with disability video (34:20)
Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for young children with a disability and their families while working face to face and/or working remotely.


Welcome to individual planning for young children with disability learning across environments. We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land in all areas that this professional learning is reaching. We pay respect to Elders past and present and extend that respect to Aboriginal people joining us today. We recognise that Aboriginal people have been nurturing and teaching their children on this land for thousands of years.

Participation in this session will address these standards. This workshop will support educators to use family cantered and strengths-based practice, to provide individual education plans for young children with disability, and their families while working face to face or working remotely. Learners will explore step by step processes for the development of individual education plans for young children with disability and apply this process to supporting ongoing learning for young children with a disability, including when children are learning from home.

Even when the IEP has been planned well and is a strong, family cantered plan, with goals being supported across all environments, when children are learning from home, this will impact on the plan. The strengths and needs of the child may present differently in the home environment, particularly as routines have changed significantly. The agreed long term and short-term goals may need to be adjusted, or they may stay the same, but the way to work on them needs to be possible and practical in the home environment.

A good IEP will have already looked at strategies to reinforce goals across environments. Adjustments that will meet the child's needs. These may be different in the home environment, and teachers may be able to support the families with equipment and resources from school. Identified priorities need to be considered and adjusted if needed. Records of achievement, how will the family feedback on progress? How will records be maintained and progress recorded? What resources can the teacher provide? Visual supports, daily schedules. How can the natural environment support the goals? The evaluation against plan goals and strategies means that there needs to be more planned and scheduled ongoing reviews with the parents. Especially also trying to include the other stakeholders where possible.

Overview of the Individual Education Plan. What is an Individual Education Plan? Individual education planning is a process where educators, parents and other support personnel work together to meet the specific needs of a child or student requiring additional support. Wherever possible, this process also includes the child or the student themselves. The individual plan, or IEP is a document that details the individual education plan planning process. It's sometimes known by other names, such as the individual learning plan or the ILP, individual family Service plan IFSP, or personalised learning and support plans.

The IEP planning process for young children is in line with Early Childhood Intervention Australia's best practice guidelines. Family cantered and strength-based practice that is culturally responsive, inclusive practice and engaging the child in natural environments. About teamwork, collaboration and building capacity. About universal principles of evidence based, standards, accountability in practice, and an outcomes-based approach.

It's also in line with the Early Years Learning Framework principles and practices. The principles of secure, respectful, and reciprocal relationships, partnerships, high expectation and equity, respect for diversity and ongoing learning and reflective practice are so important to the development of a good individual education plan. The practices of the early years learning framework, holistic approaches, responsiveness to children, learning through play, intentional teaching, learning environments, continuity of learning and transitions, cultural competence and assessment for learning, are all relevant to the individual education planning process.

So, what's included in an individual education plan? Information about assessments and reports, about the child's disability or additional support needs, other services and personnel that work with the child, and their contact information and those who are contributing to the individual education plan. A collaborative summary of the child's strengths, interests, and needs, long term goals or outcomes planned in consultation with the parents, specific short-term objectives, teaching strategies, ongoing records, and evaluation, and also parent and IEP primary contact person signatures and plain reviewed dates are included on the plan.

The individual education plan cycle can be described in 6 steps.

  • Step 1 gather information.
  • Step 2 consult and collaborate.
  • Step 3 agree on long-term goals.
  • Step 4 document goals and plan strategies.
  • Step 5 implement the plan, and
  • step 6 evaluate and review.

The participation of the family in each of these steps is crucial to an effective individual education plan. Other professionals involved in the program with the child should also be included in the education plan cycle.

So, step 1, gather information. Gather information about the child and the family. So, some of the information that you might need about the child are their medical reports. Sometimes these are confidential and in our schools the school counsellors will handle some confidential reports. Observations, any previous assessments, any previous individual education plans, information about other agencies involved in supporting the child, other early childhood education services that the child attending, the child's strengths and interests, needs, and strategies and adjustments. And also, information about the family. What are the family's main concerns for their child and their family? And really, what does the normal day look like for this family? What's the cultural background of this family? Robin McWilliams, who developed the routines-based model for working with families, suggests 3 magic questions for parents:

  • do you have enough time for yourself?
  • If you are awake at night worrying, what do you worry about?
  • And if you could change anything about your life, what would it be?

Robin McWilliams has generally generously shared a lot of information free about his program at I strongly recommend you have a look at this site.

Once information is gathered, part of the individual education plan process will be to document the information that's been gathered. It is important to understand the child and the home environment. Learning from home is always an important consideration for individual planning for a young child with a disability or support need, regardless of whether children are able to attend the service or not. Work with the family to determine information about how they can best contact you, how you can best contact them, the preferred contact modes, the best time for you and the family, dates and times that will work for collaborative planning and individual education plan meetings, including review meeting.

This is particularly important when children are working from home. It's going to be important that this information is up to date, that the preferred modes of contact, there's going to be more contact. What are the preferred modes of contact for this family and for the educators? Work together to gather and record information about other services and professionals working with a child.

Consult and collaborate. An important part of the individual education plan is consultation. And it's about building relationships and partnerships with all involved in supporting the child.

Early childhood service providers work together with the family, other education services, therapists, other agencies, and the child themselves, were appropriate, to plan together. One plan. The team around the child, it's sometimes known as, with a key worker approach works best. Through ongoing collaborative planning, we get to know a child well, and we're also getting to know others that work with the child. When children are not able to attend the service, the knowledge and understanding from an ongoing collaborative process can help set up the scene to better support learning at home.

Family centred and strengths-based planning. Working together to achieve the best outcomes. A focus on the child's strengths across a range of areas is important. Work together to identify needs, and plan adjustments and intentional teaching strategies that can be used across the range of environments, including the home and education settings.

There are strong links to the Early Years Learning Framework. Children's learning is integrated and complex, and we need to remember to promote plain English focused discussion with all stakeholders, especially parents. Areas for discussion will have links across the range of learning outcomes of the Early Years Learning Framework, or the EYLF. Some examples of strong links are, in the area of communication, it's strongly linked to the EYLF outcome 5, children are effective communicators. Social emotional behaviour area is strongly linked to EYLF outcome two children are connected with and contribute to their world. In the physical area, it's strongly leaving to EYLF outcome 3 children have a strong sense of wellbeing. Involvement in learning is strongly linked to EYLF outcome 4 children are confident and involved learners. And in area of self-help, it's strongly linked to EYLF outcome 1, children have a strong sense of identity.

We have developed a collaborative planning tool to provide an example of a structure that could be used to promote collaborative discussion and planning with the family, with the child themselves if possible, and with all stakeholders. The collaborative planning tool looks at the strengths of the child first. The strong focus on strengths. And then from the strengths, the needs emerge, and adjustments and intentional strict teaching strategies can be planned together. The tool has been set up to look across 5 areas communication. What are the strengths and communication? What are the needs in communication for this child, and what adjustments in intentional teaching strategies will be put in place in agreed to by all? Social emotional strengths physical, involvement in learning, and self-help.

Sometimes when I've used this tool, I've found that the specific needs of the child that I was working in, so perhaps a child with autism, that I may have a section across the top that focused on some of the specific characters of autism, such as restrictive behaviours or sensory needs, which can also fit into the physical category there as well. So, this planning tool can be adjusted, the areas of focus for discussion can be adjusted to meet the needs of the individual child.

It does lead the team to focus on the strengths first. And it provides a snapshot of how the child is currently functioning. Through a focus on strength, the needs will emerge, and the needs will point towards strategies that can be implemented across different settings.

How does the planning tool work? The collaborative planning tool would usually be completed in a meeting of all involved in working with the child. And as we have so away, that meeting may also be on a virtual platform, over the phone, or even said to other stakeholders for them to add their ideas. For example, the speech therapist might not be able to attend the meeting, or a virtual meeting, especially if we're working remotely, but may jot down points and ideas from their work with the child in the family. Some situations may mean that discussions need to be arranged remotely anyway, even when children are attending.

Here is an example of a completed collaborative planning tool. There's no need for it to be complicated. Basically, it's about getting the main ideas down, getting the main strengths, working out where the child's up to, working out what the child's needs are from that point, so it's sort of like where we are now and where we're going next, and then looking at the adjustments and intentional teaching strategies that all are great to.

An interesting point is that completion of this process, there collaborative planning tool, supports the nationally consistent collection of data process. All Australian schools are required to provide information as part of the nationally consistent collection of data, or the NCCD. There needs to be evidence of consultation and collaboration with the student, and all their parents, guardians or carers, the assessed identified needs of the student, adjustments provided to the student to address their identified needs, and monitoring and review of the impact of the adjustments provided. The collaborative planning tool provides a very good example of evidence that all of these processes are being implemented for this child.

The collaborative planning tool resource is available to all participants in this professional learning. It contains a template of the collaborative planning tool, a page of suggestions of things to consider when discussing their child strengthen needs, and a page of intentional teaching strategy ideas that are well proven to support the inclusion of children with disability across all learning environments, including home, preschool, early intervention and school. The collaborative planning tool is particularly useful when children are transitioning from one, say for example from preschool to school, or before they start at preschool. A fantastic tool to use to support transitions. The writing is much too small to show some examples of what is actually being included in the resource, so let's just take a look at the sections.

An example of things to consider, reflecting on a child's strengths and needs in communication. These things are included in the collaborative planning tool for your reference. So reflect and analyse on the strengths and needs and here are some things to consider. What are the verbal and nonverbal interactions of the child? What are the receptive and expressive language skills? Is the communication pre intentional or intentional? Consider augmentative and alternative communication systems, such as visuals or picture exchange systems, keyword sign or speech generating devices. Engagement with text, including electronic and print, and gaining meaning from those texts. Understanding of symbols and patterns. Consider literacy and consider the home language and dialect.

Some ideas when considering appropriate intentional teaching strategies or adjustments for each child. Some things to consider in the area of communication could be use short, simple and clear language. Gain the child's attention before speaking. Allow time to respond or initiate interactions and use that expected speech therapist wait. Support with nonverbal cues such as gestures. You may use keyword signing, modelling language. The one more word, one more word than the child uses, modelling extension of language. Use augmentative with speech, or alternative in place of speech communication systems if needed, and make sure these are always available to the child. Lots of repetition of stories, songs, rhyme and play activities. Our intentional teaching strategies to support communication.

Here is another example of things to consider that are included on the collaborative planning tool. These things have been looked at in the area of involvement in learning. So you may consider the confidence of the child to explore and try new things. Their curiosity, their persistence, are they able to complete a task? Are they interested in creative activities? Are they actively involved? Do they take satisfaction in achievement? Do they apply learning to new situations? You also might consider mathematical ideas and concepts, number sense, pattern, measurement, problem solving. For each area across the collaborative planning tool, ideas like this of things to consider have been included.

And then intentional teaching strategies or adjustments of things that may work for the child in that area, or things to think about. We don't have time to go through all of the areas. These are just a couple of examples that I've provided. The collaborative planning tool lists these ideas of things to consider, across all the areas on the planning tool.

Step three, agree on long term goals. From a knowledge and understanding of the child's strengths and needs, and with some adjustments planned across environments, the team then works on the goals that will be the focus of the IEP.

Parents identify goals that they would like to focus on. This is often done in a meeting, but it could be done over the phone, it could be done in a virtual communication session, especially when we're working from home. This may, as we've said before, need to be reviewed when children are working from home, as the parents’ priorities likely to have changed.

Here's just an example of some of the things that parents might say are important to them to be considered as goals and priorities. It's important to rate the priorities too. Which of the most important for the family? And which are the educators' and other professionals' goals that they would like to focus on? Discuss those with the family as well and rate their importance.

From that process, decide together on broad long-term goals to focus on. At this Stage, these goals are still expressed in plain English, especially when we're working with parents, and here's an example of some goals recorded and agreed upon at an IEP session. This example records a discussion around the environments relevant to each goal, and it leaves a space for another environment at the end that could also be considered. For example, the child might go to preschool and early intervention with the speech therapist, and they may also go to swimming lessons. So something may be considered in that area that relates back to the goals being agreed upon. The X indicates that the goal is relevant and could be worked on in that environment.

Step four, document goals and plan strategies. Documenting long and short-term goals. Once the long-term goals have been decided with parents and other professionals, the educator responsible for documenting the IEP will document the agreed long-term goals and short-term goals as specific, focus, time-bound goals. Many educators use the SMART acronym to guide goal writing. S, Specific, M, Measurable, A, Achievable, R, Realistic and T, Time-bound.

SMART goals are useful in planning for children with additional learning needs. They actually have their origin in business but had become really useful to think about when planning goals for children’s' IEPs.

An example of IEP planning for learning in the home. So, parents identified a goal, they would like their daughter, Layla, to stay at the table for mealtimes and feed herself using a spoon. So, the long-term smart goal could be something like by the end of Term 2, Layla will stay at the table for mealtimes for 10 minutes and use a spoon to feed herself from a bowl, until she has even as much as she wants, 4 out of 5 times. Layla is already able to finger feed herself using a pincer grip, and will usually sit when asked for mealtimes. Though she can often move from table to table, taking food with her. She loves foods that need to be eaten with a spoon, such as plain rice and yogurt, but wants her mother or teacher to feed these to her.

So, the teachers supported parents with strategies. When school resumes, the goal will be re-enforced across the wide environments, but at the moment there's only the home environment, and so this is an example of the short-term goal to support that long term goal, and the strategies worked on together that the family will work on at home.

Step 5, implement the plan. The individual education plan is a living document, and it will develop and change as part of an ongoing assessment and planning. Through working through the strategies of the IEP, and continued interaction with parents and other professionals to monitor progress, new strategies and refined short term goals will emerge and be recorded. These ongoing developments will be recorded in a number of ways, that can include, evaluation of planned adjustment strategies across the whole program, such as recorded on the collaborative planning tool, and ongoing progress, notes against the IEP goals and strategies.

A sample of ongoing progress notes and strategies are here for Layla, and how she's going with her goal of feeding herself. And you taught the short-term goals being introduced, and additional strategies have been introduced.

Evaluate and review. The review of the IEP leads back to the first step in the IP cycle. It provides information for future planning for all stakeholders, and it provides documented evidence that reflect the child's learning and development. It complements other evidence that reflects the child's learning and development, including observations, collections of work, annotated photographs, feedback from the family and other professionals, and evaluation of the intentional teaching strategies and adjustments that may have been documented using the collaborative planning tool. There's space on the collaborative planning tool to record these evaluations. Ongoing contact with the family is crucial to reviewing the success of the IEP, and this is particularly important when working remotely. But it is always relevant. It is through working with the family, that we have the greatest impact.

So, we're back to step 1, evaluation and review has provided information that comes back to step one, gathering information, and the cycle continues.

An optional task is provided here to trial the collaborative planning tool template and prompts for discussion with the family that you're currently working with or will be working with in the future. Perhaps you can use this template in the context of working remotely. Include other professionals working with the child if possible, and include the child themselves, especially have them there for the discussion about their strengths.

Some valuable resources. IEPs and ILPs with Microsoft Teams is a highly recommended professional learning. It demonstrates how you can use Microsoft products to facilitate ongoing individual education planning. It's presented by Megan Townes and Microsoft delivery specialists. You can access the course through the links here on the slide, and I highly recommend that you do that.

The Learning from home website has resources to support students when they can't attend school. Particularly, have a look at the sections on disability learning and support and early child resources.

Also, don't forget the Statewide staffrooms, the early learning Statewide staffroom, and the disability learning and support Statewide staffroom.

Learning on demand. This course itself is found on Learning on demand. It's been created to facilitate all staff with their professional learning while children are learning remotely. You can now easily navigate to the professional learning options that best meet your needs, particularly have a look at Supporting young students with disability, a course that was developed prior to this one, and the Early learning section. Use the TinyURL there to access ongoing professional learning and support on demand.

This is a valuable resource for parents to use to support learning at home. Lots of resources and information there which could be very useful to you.

We're always learning, working with children with disability in their families can teach us so much about people, and about what's important in life. Amazing people, in an amazing world.

We would love to hear your feedback about this professional learning, and your suggestions for future development of PL. This PL has actually come out of the evaluation for the supporting children's learning from home, young children with disability learning from home course, that was presented earlier when learning remotely had just come into place. Please use the QR code or type the link below into your browser to access the evaluation in Microsoft Forms. It doesn't take long and we really appreciate your feedback.

[End of transcript]

2. Individualised planning for young children with disability via My PL (Course code: NRG11698) 30 minutes


  • Additional needs
  • Early childhood curriculum and pedagogy

Business Unit:

  • Curriculum and Reform
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