From Assessment to IEP to Instruction

One of the challenges for many educators when considering an Active Learning approach for use with their students with significant developmental delays who function at 48 months or younger in most areas of development is access to the standard or academic curriculum. State and federal laws insure that all children have access to the General Education Curriculum.  IEPs should reflect alignment to the same content that their grade level peers are accessing.  This means they should have the same opportunity to study areas of science, social studies, reading, math, and so forth. It also requires that important functional skills be taught and if the child is visually impaired or deafblind, there also needs to be a focus on the Expanded Core Curriculum.

Active Learning: From Assessment to Curriculum

In this webinar, Patty Obrzut, Assistant Director of Penrickton Center explains how to use the Functional Scheme assessment tool to help in the development of IEP goals and how to align instruction with the standard curriculum.

Run time on this webinar is approximately 1 hour 30 minutes.

Intake Process

When receiving a new student, an interview is done with the parents or caregivers to find out as much as possible about the child. This includes gather information about:

    • Activities of daily living skills such as  the child’s ability to participate in feeding, bathing, toileting, personal hygiene activities;
    • Fine and gross motor skills;
    • Likes and dislikes;
    • Sensory experiences and preferences;
    • Cognition skills such as cause and effect, object permeance, problem-solving skills, etc.;
    • Positions the child can play/work in such as sitting, standing, prone, supine, etc.;
    • Emotional level such as how the student contacts others, self-activity level, behaviors, self-stimulatory activities, affect;
    • Medical issues such as seizures, g-tube, awareness of pain, physical
      characteristics, medications (tone, contractures, etc.);
    • Social development such as how the child responds outside home and  interacts with adults and children;
    • Communications skills that include non-verbal, and verbal communication skills, expressive and receptive skills and use of  augmentative devices;
    • General desires and priorities of the parents and/or child;

You may want to use the Active Learning Materials and Activities Planning Sheet to gather this information. Some teams prefer to begin the process of completing specific sections of the Functional Scheme before having this discussion with parents, especially if the child is already in the school system. This discussion centers around the areas of the Functional Scheme and allows the parent to confirm the observations of the team or to amend them based on the child’s functioning in the home environment.

Setting Goals

After the assessment is completed and the team is ready to develop the IEP. This includes determining:

For children who are below the developmental age of 48 months, the essence statements found in the standard curriculum determine the focus of instruction for these students in the academic areas.  Similarly the focus of instruction in the Expanded Core Curriculum for students with visual impairments, deafblindness, and deafness targets skills at the earliest levels.


Once the IEP is developed, the team is ready to begin instruction. Initially, the entire Functional Scheme may not be complete since these children are not easy to assess because of sensory, medical, physical, cognitive and/or emotional challenges. They may need time to learn to trust the instructors and feel safe in the school environment.  For this reason, we encourage a diagnostic teaching approach. That is, based on assessment, determine goals and objectives, building instructional activities to address these goals, take data to determine if instructional strategies are working, and fine-tune the IEP and instruction as needed based on documented progress.

This includes instruction to address:

    • Academic achievement (math, science, social studies, reading and language arts)
    • Functional performance (activities of daily living, social interaction, and emotional development)
    • Expanded Core Curriculum (for children with visual and/or hearing impairments)

All instruction can and should utilize an Active Learning approach. These children, because of their developmental level, are not ready for pencil and paper tasks, learning through reading or listening, and other typical instructional strategies used in most K-12 programs. These children learn through doing, through their own self-initiated activity with support from a trusted mentor. 

From Assessment to IEP to Instruction Using and Active Learning approach pin for Pinterest showing an adult and children laughing with each other.