The Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance statement (PLAAFP, or “present levels”) is a key part of your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). The very first PLAAFP for your child describes his skills and abilities based on his initial special education evaluation. The PLAAFP should cover all areas of development where your child may need support. Some examples are:
- Academic skills—counting, pre-reading, pre-writing
- Daily living or self-help skills—dressing, eating, using the bathroom
- Social skills—playing with friends
- Sensory skills—hearing, seeing
- Communication skills—talking, listening
- Mobility—getting around in school and the community
The purpose of the PLAAFP is to identify the kinds and amount of special education services your child may need. So the PLAAFP statement includes information about how your child’s disability affects or would affect his involvement in the general education curriculum. If your child is preschool age, his PLAAFP will focus on how his disability affects his involvement in typical preschool activities and development. In other words, you and the rest of the team will talk about the impact your child’s disability has on his ability to learn and do the kinds of things that children without disabilities learn and do. This information is then included in his IEP.
If your child is new to special education, this information will come from the tests and observations done during your child’s evaluation for eligibility. If your child’s IEP is being reviewed and revised, the information may come from evaluations done during the year.
Teachers and others who work with your child may offer information they’ve learned by observing your child’s day-to-day school routine. You as a parent can and should provide information that can help shape his PLAAFP.
What the PLAAFP should cover
A well-written PLAAFP statement will describe:
- Your child’s strengths and weaknesses
- What helps your child learn
- What limits or interferes with your child’s learning
- Objective data from current evaluations of your child
- How your child’s disability affects his or her ability to be involved and progress in the general education curriculum
As parents, we want to make sure that all of the positive things about our child are included in the IEP. This is important information, but it does not belong in the PLAAFP statement unless it can guide teachers in helping your child. For example, "Aaron loves music" may be important to note if music helps calm Aaron, or if Aaron is able to learn new information through a song. This type of information is useful for teachers as they work with your child. Other positive information that does not have an impact on behavior or learning is important. It needs to be somewhere else in the IEP, not in the present levels statement.
For the youngest students, Texas uses the Early Childhood Outcomes and Prekindergarten Guidelines Alignment (PDF), known as the ECO/PreK Guidelines, to identify necessary skills for children. This document helps parents and teachers develop PLAAFP statements based on 10 areas of skill appropriate for prekindergarten students:
- Social and emotional development
- Language and communication
- Emerging literacy: reading
- Emerging literacy: writing
- Social studies
- Fine arts
- Physical development
Here are sample excerpts from two PLAAFP statements created using the ECO/PreK Guidelines:
1. Jill continues to develop her skills in the area of Language and Communication, specifically with an instructional focus in speaking or conversation skills. Jill is currently engaging in one back and forth turn in a conversation with an adult. This can limit Jill’s access to the general curriculum because most students Jill’s age can take up to 4 turns in a conversation. Her inability to carry on a conversation and respond conversationally may hinder academic and functional progress and decrease her ability to interact with her teachers and peers.
2. Dominic continues to develop his skills in the area of Emerging Literacy: Writing, specifically with an instructional focus in motivation to write. Dominic currently watches other children write and scribble when given pen and paper. Most 40-month-old children can draw recognizable forms and may label and talk about their own drawings. Children this age can make horizontal, vertical, zig-zag lines and loops during scribbling.
Often, the PLAAFP includes teacher observations as well as information from evaluations. This can give a more complete picture of what helps your child learn and what limits your child’s learning. Examples of these kinds of statements are:
- “He needs a quiet, separate place to go if he feels overwhelmed, he accesses our ‘cool down’ area.”
- “She learns better if a new skill is taught one-on-one, then practiced in a small group.”
- “He can participate in group activities if provided pictures to help him make choices.”
- “She has difficulty imitating other children, and does better if the skills are broken down and taught in smaller steps.”
Notice the bold text in the examples for Jill and Dominic above. This information includes baseline data (Jill engages in one back and forth; Dominic watches) and a measure of typical behavior (most students can take up to 4 turns in conversation; most 40-month-olds can draw recognizable forms). These are 2 essential parts of the PLAAFP statement. The baseline data tells the ARD committee the starting point for your child. The measure of typical behavior may indicate a reasonable goal for your child. Make sure both of these components are in every PLAAFP that is written for your child.
A clearly written and thorough PLAAFP is important, because it is the foundation for everything in your child’s IEP that follows it. IEP goals are based upon your child’s present levels. Special education and related services are based on it, too. So take your time in writing the PLAAFP, or present levels statement. Be thorough. The information you include will be the stepping stone for the rest of the IEP.
Parts of this article were adapted from the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY), Parent Guide 12 by Theresa Rebhorn.