Developing the Communication Plan

The primary purpose of the Communication Plan is to establish discussion among all IEP team members who review the student’s needs based on communication skills and access. The Communication Plan should be the starting point for the IEP, and the results of this discussion should be used to identify the student’s present educational levels as well as to complete other sections of the IEP. The Annotated Communication Plan was revised in December 2010.
The four sections of the communication plan indicate the components that must be addressed:

Section I: Language and communication needs

  • The IEP team discusses and indicates the student’s primary language. This is the language most frequently used across settings by the student and will inform the team of the student’s preferred language or communication mode for learning.
    • If the student primarily uses Pidgin Sign English (PSE) to communicate, check the box ‘Other’ and write Pidgin Sign English on the designated line. ‘Signed language other than ASL’ refers to another language that is signed (e.g., Mexican Sign Language or Lenguaje de Signos Mexicano).
  • There are choices listed on the communication plan under communication mode. More than one mode may be checked; for example, a student with additional complex needs may receive communication by both ASL and gestures.
    • The terms simultaneous communication and total communication have been used to state that more than one mode of communication is being used, i.e., spoken English, PSE, finger spelling. The team may check all of the modes that apply in the receptive and expressive modes.
    • Students often use speechreading to aid in receptive communication. Although this is already denoted within the definition of auditory/oral mode of communication, it may be added parenthetically in the Other category under receptive communication mode.
    • Finger spelling should not be checked unless it is the only mode of communication used with a student (known as the Rochester Method). Fingerspelling is used often in ASL and all signed languages.
  • The IEP team needs to describe the effectiveness of communication experienced between the student and his family and also his/her peers. If the current mode is not effective, the team should consider whether to develop goals to improve the student’s effective communication with his/her peers during this IEP. The question asking if the language or communication mode is adequate cannot be answered by only a yes or no. Provide a brief explanation to qualify the answer given.
  • For students who have both a visual impairment and a hearing loss, the IEP team should identify the modes used and describe how it provides access to visual and environmental information, including the mode of communication used for instruction. If the current mode is not effective, the team should develop goals to improve communication in order to make visual and environmental information more accessible to the student.

Section II: Opportunities for direct communication

  • The IEP team describes opportunities for the student to communication directly with hearing, deaf and/or hard of hearing peers.
  • Direct communication with professional staff and other school personnel includes interaction with teachers, paraprofessionals, therapists, counselors, nurse, custodial and cafeteria workers. This is an essential component of the school culture and climate – that students have access to all personnel. This also related directly to section IV when considering the full range of needs.
  • Direct instruction includes instruction in the general education setting, small group situations, and individual instruction. The IEP team also describes opportunities for the student to receive direct instruction from the professional staff and other school personnel using the student’s language and communication modes as addressed in Section 1.

Section III: Academic level, assistive technology, devices and services

  • The IEP team indicates what language and communication supports are needed for the student to participate and make progress in the general education curriculum. The information in this section should be used to identify specially designed instruction, as well as appropriate accommodations for assessment.
    • The expectation is that the student be able to participate AND make progress in the general education curriculum. Communication access in the student’s primary language is critical.
    • Refer back to Section 1 concerning the primary language and communication mode checked and ensure that the teacher is proficient in what is specified there.
  • If an educational interpreter is providing services, confirm that he/she is highly qualified according to PA’s Chapter 14 regulations. Regulations require an educational interpreter to be registered by PA’s Office for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing or have a minimum score of 3.5 on the Educational Interpreter Performance Assessment (EIPA).
  • Both assistive technology devices and services must be considered.
    • An assistive technology device means any item, piece of equipment, or product system whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain or improve the functional capabilities of a student with disabilities.
      • An assistive technology device does not include a medical device that has been surgically implanted.
      • An assistive technology service means any service that directly assists a student with a disability in the selection, acquisition or use of a device.
      • This includes any special equipment or technology that students may need to help them participate in school, including state and local assessments, extracurricular activities; and uses the services required for assessment and implementation of these devices.
      • Decisions regarding the monitoring of equipment need to be discussed so that the care and responsibilities are clearly indicated.
      • There may be times during the school year where a device may be tested to see if it has a positive impact on access and learning. This trial does not need to be noted on the IEP until it is decided that the device will be used consistently to access the general education curriculum.
  • Language and communication supports must be adequate to meet the child’s needs. After discussion, it may be determined that the language and communication supports are not adequate. The IEP team may not simply state no. They will need to determine what the communication needs are and then complete the plan accordingly, i.e., add captioning, use the services of a qualified educational interpreter.

Section IV: Full range of needs

  • The IEP team discusses and identifies any other additional communication needs of the student that are not addressed prior in this plan.
  • Discuss the student’s entire day and consider social, emotional, and cultural needs which may not yet have been addressed in the IEP.