Youth Services

What are IVCIL Youth Services?

IVCIL’s Youth Services and Youth Transition Services Program offer support at no cost to people with disabilities up to 14 years of age and their families.

Services include:

  • Peer support group and counseling
  • Educational advocacy
  • Workshops, trainings, and meetings
  • Disability awareness training
  • Assistance with transition planning
  • Inclusion into community recreation
  • Skills training for independent living
  • Information and referral
  • Technical assistance for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and its amendments

Family Referral Services & Independent Living Plans

The IVCIL works collaboratively with our consumers and their families to develop and achieve the goals of people with disabilities through Independent Skills Training, Referral Services, and self-advocacy.

Parent & Community Training

IVCIL sponsors trainings and presentations open to parents, educators, professionals and community members. Each training covers a different topic of interest such as:

  • Issues pertinent to parents of children with disabilities
  • Special education issues
  • Specific disabilities

Peer Counseling

IVCIL Youth Services hosts Youth and Parent Peer Support Groups, where people who share similar disability-related issues come together to collaborate on shared experiences and interests while working to achieve each individual’s maximum independence.

What is the Youth Transition Services Program?

The Youth Transition Services Program at IVCIL helps facilitate independence for persons with disabilities who are transitioning to post-secondary life. Youth Services are available at no cost to youth with disabilities from 14 to 24 years of age and their families.

The Youth Service and Youth Transition Service Programs offer similar support and services; however, they focus on distinct outcomes. The Youth Services Program focuses on improving educational and community opportunities for youth ages 5 – 13. The Youth Transition Services Program focuses on transitioning youth with disabilities toward independent living by offering a variety of life skills training.

Through services to youth, their families, schools, and community agencies, the IVCIL Youth Advocacy Program hopes to:

  • Educate youth with disabilities and their families about their educational rights
  • Provide increased opportunities for youth with disabilities to develop independent living skills that promote and foster independence and self-advocacy
  • Increase successful youth transitions from school to independent living, help build partnerships between students, parents, educators, employers, and community organizations
  • Provide systems advocacy that increases educational, recreational, social, and employment opportunities for youth with disabilities
Boy drawing in a notebook with multicolored pens
Special Education Advocacy

Many families need support and information to navigate Special Education Services. Our Youth Advocacy Services can provide your family with resources for information and assistance in understanding this complicated system. 

As collaborative members of your student’s IEP team, our collective goal is to foster cooperative and successful communication in the best interest of your student’s education. My goal as an advocate is to empower students and their families to confidently pursue services and accommodations and advocate in their self-interest.  

How can a Special Education Advocate help your family?

  • The Youth Advocate is a member of your student’s IEP team, along with the student’s guardian(s).
  • An advocate will serve as a mediator to support open communication between the student’s family and school staff.
  • When necessary he or she will explain, clarify, or question when there is a perceived confusion or communication barrier between members of the team.
  • Together the Youth Advocate and the student’s guardian(s) will organize and fully address a ‘parental concern agenda’.
  • The Youth Advocate will ensure adherence to the IDEA law and the Illinois Special Education 226 Rules.
  • If ever necessary, the Youth Advocate will speak for the student’s family if he, she, or they are not being understood, are too emotional to speak for themselves or to ask for a break when emotions are running high.

For more information on how to invite a Youth Advocate to attend your child’s school meeting please contact our Youth Services Coordinator:



Kayleigh Parham

815-224-3126 ext. 219


FAQ: Questions about Special Education

The Individualized Education Program also called the IEP, is a document that is required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA is the nation’s special education law. It gives rights and protections to students with disabilities. It covers them from birth through high school graduation or age 21. Parents and legal guardians also have rights under the law. 

As a student with a disability, your child has a right to specialized instruction that allows them to make meaningful educational progress. The law requires schools to provide what is appropriate or necessary but not what is best. An IEP is developed for each public school child who needs special education to ensure access to free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. The plan is created through a team effort and reviewed periodically and amended whenever necessary. 

The IEP team includes:

    • Parents

    • Student

    • Special education teacher

    • General education teacher

    • An administrator

    • Evaluators

    • Other service providers

    • Any other person you or the school decide to invite

What are the parts of the IEP?

The major parts of the IEP include: 

      • The present level of performance

      • Parental Concerns

      • Annual Goals 

      • Progress Monitoring 

      • Special Education and Related Services & Supplementary Aids and Services

      • Inclusion & Placement

      • Transitional Goals and Services

Present Level of Performance (PLOP / PLAAFP)

The present level of performance describes a student’s current abilities, skills, challenges, and strengths at the time the IEP is written. It covers both academic performance and everyday functional skills. PLAAFP (present level of academic achievement and functional performance) is sometimes, shortened to PLOP or PLP. It may also be called 

The present level of performance should answer two questions: 

    • Where do the student’s skills and knowledge currently stand? 

    • How does the student’s disability impact involvement and progress in the general education curriculum? 

Academic performance refers to how a student is doing based on grade-level standards. Functional performance means activities of daily living that aren’t just academic. This includes behavior, communication, social skills, eating, dressing, and mobility. A disability can impact both academic and functional skills. Health Information and Student Strengths are also addressed along with PLOP. 

Parental Concerns Statement

As a parent, it is also your right to submit a statement and have your letter, in its entirety, included and addressed in the IEP.  This is one of the most under-utilized portions of the IEP process.  

Annual goals & Data Collection

All IEPs have annual goals. These goals build on the student’s present level of performance. Goals should reflect what progress the team believes the student should be able to achieve in one year. Depending on when an IEP is written, the goals may span more than one academic year. For instance, an IEP written in May will have an annual review next May. 

Each goal describes the skill or subject area the student is focusing on and the targeted result. It’s like a map describing where the student is going this year, the route for getting there, and the stops along the way. 

It is best practice for IEP teams to write “SMART” goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant/Results-oriented, and Time-bound. These goals also spell out how progress will be measured. An IEP requires meaningful data to know if the child is making progress toward their goals. Data is collected to monitor goal progress but also taken to identify when progress is not happening. Timely data tells us if a student is struggling so changes can be made if necessary. It also serves to tell the IEP team that the IEP supports and services are being implemented and are appropriate for this child. Attention to data collection is important for any successful IEP.

Quality IEP goals will likely follow this formula to ensure that they are individualized SMART goals. 

IEP Goal Example: By _____ the student will _______ in ______ setting/context as measured by ______ with ____ accuracy.
        1. By _____ (When the child will master the goal by: by the end of the IEP cycle, by a certain date, in six months)

        2. student will _______ (Write the specific skill that the child will do)

        3. In ______ setting/context (Where will the skill be measured?  In the classroom?  In the therapy room?  In conversational speech?  At the sentence level?  During peer interactions?)

        4. As measured by ______ (How will progress be measured?  With data collection?  By teacher report?  A language sample?  A checklist?  A tally sheet?)

        5. With ____ accuracy (How accurate must the child be?  Examples: 80% accuracy, in 4 of 5 trials, on 3 of 4 observed opportunities, on 5 consecutive data collection days)

          • Including Baselines:

          • Exemplary goals include baselines so it is clear where the child started and how far they’ve come.  If you want or need to include baseline, you can add it to the above formula by replacing your “Student will”, “supports”, and “accuracy” sections with this:

          • “…student will increase/decrease ______ from a baseline of ____ accuracy with ____ supports to ____accuracy with _____ supports…”

        6. With ____ supports (Can the child have any support and still be considered to have met the goal?  Examples: Independently, with reminders, with verbal prompts, with physical prompts, with partial physical assistance, with visual cues

        7. Including Benchmarks: So what are benchmark goals for? Think of these as the skills that the child will need to learn before he can do the larger goal.  It is important to include time stamps on when you expect these benchmark goals to be met.

Overall Goal: By the end of the IEP cycle, Juliet will independently answer “where” questions about a book that has been read aloud in the therapy room with 80% accuracy as measured by data collection.Benchmark 1: By the end of the first trimester of this IEP cycle, Juliet will independently answer a “where’s the ___” question by pointing to the correct object in the therapy room with 80% accuracy as measured by data collection.Benchmark 2: By the end of the second trimester of this IEP cycle, Juliet will independently answer a “where’s the ____” question by verbally describing the location of the object in the therapy room with 80% accuracy as measured by data collection.

Information from A Day in Our Shoes: 


Related services help students with disabilities benefit from their special education by providing extra help and support in needed areas, such as speaking or moving. The federal special education law lists the following as possible related services:

    • Speech-language and audiology services

    • Interpreting services

    • Psychological services

    • Occupational and 

    • Recreation, including therapeutic recreation

    • Early identification and evaluation of disabilities in children

    • Counseling services, including rehabilitation counseling

    • Orientation and mobility

    • Medical services (but only for diagnostic or evaluation purposes, not for ongoing treatment)

    • School health and/or school nurse services

    • Social work services

    • Parent counseling and training

It’s important to know that if there are services your child needs and it’s not on the list, IDEA says the team should consider it.

Inclusion and Placement

The IEP must include a timeline for any services the IEP team proposes. This includes details on the frequency of the services and in what environment they will be delivered. The intent is to ensure that everyone understands exactly when and where your child’s individual program will take place. The IEP will detail how the child can join the general, mainstream classroom environment whenever it’s appropriate. This ensures that the team is doing all they can to keep your child in the least restrictive environment possible.

Transitional Goals and Services

IDEA requires the district to prepare students for life after secondary education. For that reason, starting around a student’s 14th birthday, the IEP must include plans for transitioning a child beyond grade school. 

Transitional goals and services focus on instruction and support services needed to help your child move from the school environment and into a job, vocational program, or another program designed to promote independent living. If your child aspires to go to college, the IEP should also include steps to help prepare them for advocating for themselves in that environment.

The Transition Toolkit from UIC Division of Specialized Care for Children

More information on the IVCIL Youth Transtion Services  

If your child needs special education because of a disability, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) gives you and your child certain rights:

    • Your child has the right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). 

      • School districts must provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to students with disabilities. Students must learn side by side with peers as much as possible in the least restrictive environment.

      • You do not have to pay any more for the education of your child with a disability than a parent would pay for the education of a child without disabilities.

      • The school cannot use your private insurance to pay for your child’s education and related services unless you agree.

      • Schools must find and evaluate students who may have disabilities, at no cost to families. 

    • Parent participation: You have a legal right to participate in meetings about your child’s education, including IEP meetings. You can even call an IEP team meeting at any time. Schools have to give parents a voice in their child’s education. IDEA gives parents specific rights and protections throughout the special education process.  

    • Procedural safeguards notice: The school must provide you with a written explanation of your rights under both IDEA and your state’s laws. You’ll get this as printed procedural safeguards notice. You can also ask for a verbal explanation.

    • Access to educational records: Parents have the right to see and get an explanation of their child’s school records and make corrections. These rights are protected by IDEA and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

    • Confidentiality of information: The school must protect your child’s confidentiality. This includes personal information, such as your child’s name, address, social security number, and other personal details. There are some exceptions, though. FERPA outlines these.

    • Informed consent (or parental consent): Before evaluating your child or providing special education services for the first time, the school must inform you of what’s involved. You have to give your permission in writing before the school can move forward. Learn more about informed consent.

    • Prior written notice: If your child receives special education services, the school must give you notice in writing within a reasonable time before any meetings, and before any service your child receives is changed or denied. This notice must explain the procedures, the meeting, or the proposed changes, and inform you. The school must give you written notice before it changes your child’s special education experience. This includes when the school wants to add or deny services. It must tell you what it proposes to do and why.

    • Understandable language: When the school provides written notice, it must use language that’s understandable to the general public. The notice must also be in your native language (this includes Braille).

    • Independent educational evaluation (IEE): If a parent disagrees with the school’s evaluation results, they have the right to get an IEE. An IEE is an evaluation of your child’s skills and needs by someone who’s not a school employee. The school must consider the results of the IEE. However, the school isn’t required to accept the findings.

    • “Stay put” rights: If a parent disagrees with a proposed change to their child’s IEP services or placement the “stay put” protection keeps the student’s current IEP in place while parents and the district work things out.

    • Dispute resolution options: You have the right to disagree with the school about what’s best for your child. If you have a disagreement, IDEA provides you with several dispute resolution options.

For more information on Special Education rights in Illinois visit: Equip for Equality 

If you are having a problem that you have not been able to resolve by talking with the school, you have several options outside of the IEP process. Each of the options has different rules so it is important to choose the best one for your situation.

The conflict resolution options are:

For more information on these options:


If you have questions about special education, reach out to the Youth Services program for more information and resources.