The PLAAFP is one of the many acronyms from the alphabet soup of special educantion-ese that you will run into during an IEP/ARD meeting, but it is crucial that you understand what it is.

  • P: Present
  • L: Levels (of)
  • A: Academic
  • A:  Achievement (and)
  • F: Functional
  • P:  Performance

Ok, but “I’m not sure they use that I’ve seen that in my child’s paperwork.” you say.  Yes, it’s there, but you just might not have noticed it before because at the meeting, most of the discussion centers around the goals and objectives, not necessarily the PLAAFP.    Every IEP goal has a PLAAFP statement associated with it.

Ignoring the PLAAFP can get you in trouble though.   Allow me to explain how.

Imagine your going on a trip.  You plug your destination into the GPS, and you want to know how long it’s going to take you to get there.   The GPS can’t tell you unless you plug in where you are starting from.

The PLAAFP works the same way–it tells you where your student is starting from.

A good PLAAFP is a specific, measurable, and relevant statement of what your child can and cannot do in every area of need.   From academics to speech to mobility to hearing to sight:  any area in which your child needs services should have a PLAAFP statement.   The purpose of the PLAAFP is for anyone to be able to read it and have a basic understanding of where to begin working with your student.   Once you know what the student can do, then appropriate goals and objectives can be develop to address the weakness to take them to the next step in their development.  A poorly written PLAAFP will either have teachers setting the starting point for the student too low, this usually happens in self contained settings, or too high, this usually happens in general ed/inclusion/mainstream settings.

What’s wrong with setting the starting point too low or too high?  Think about something that you are trying to learn.  How did you react when the lessons were consistently too easy?  You probably got bored and stopped paying attention.  How did you react if the material you tried to learn was too far a reach beyond what you could already do?  You probably gave up in frustration.

Your child is exactly the same.

A good PLAAFP is crucial to find the teaching sweet spot that allows your child to stay happily engaged in the learning process.  A good PLAAFP is drafted from the FIE (Full Individual Evaluation).  Unfortunately, most parents and school staff barely look at the FIE once it’s been written and presented at the IEP/ARD meeting.  That is a huge mistake.  The FIE will give you your child’s specific and measurable PLAAFP in every area of need.  If it doesn’t, then the FIE isn’t complete. . . but that’s a subject for another blog post.

The farther the student is from skills being taught in the general ed class, the more important this PLAAFP statement is.

For one student with whom I was working, the teacher presented this PLAAFP:

Student can read at the 6th grade level.

What follows is what his PLAAFP became when we looked more closely at his evaluations.

Robert can read short paragraphs for meaning and answer questions direct questions and obvious information between a 2nd – 4th grade level (Eval from 3/2009 tested him at 2nd grade reading level; Resource teacher states he can comprehend at an 6th grade level).  He can decode words at a post high school level.  He can print short simple sentences.  He can explain similarities between 3 related words at about the level of a 4th grader.  He can independently research information about a topic at a 3rd grade level.

Can you see a difference (besides the length)?

Can you see how one PLAAFP gives a much more complete picture for the teacher to know what areas to work on?

The better your map, the less likely you are to get lost.  A good PLAAFP is invaluable to a teacher who knows what they’re doing.  They will be able to build on those strengths and target weaknesses more effectively.  Unfortunately good teachers don’t have time to really write good PLAAFP.  The rest don’t know how.

So what does this mean for you as a parent?  It means that you need to learn more about the subjects your child is learning.  Do research how what theories and methods are out there for people who have trouble learning to read or write or do math.  I have many links in my course, the Speak Up for Your Child Bootcamp.

There is a LOT of information out there.  (Dare I say a plethora?)  Knowing and being able to articulate what your child needs means that you must be fluent in his/her strengths and needs.  There are a LOT of people out there who will be happy to help you.  I’ve even heard of researchers answer emails from parents who send in questions about research.

Happy researching.


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