Girl pointing to a picture on her AAC device during speech therapy

Creating IEP present levels for kids with CVI

Learn about the essential ingredients for strong, data-based present levels of performance for your child with CVI

The importance of present levels

Think of present levels like the base of a good soup: It’s the crucial mix of ingredients for your child’s IEP. And, like a good soup, it’s best fresh: This section must be updated annually.

Why? This is the comprehensive, baseline summary of your child’s strengths, challenges, and needs. From this information, you and your team can devise appropriate goals for next year’s IEP.  It should:

In clear, positive, and descriptive language, you should see an overview of your child’s skills, abilities, strengths, and challenges. For kids with CVI, this includes academic performance (subjects such as reading and math), social skills and everyday functioning (interacting with peers, responding to educators), and physical abilities (moving from space to space, sitting at lunch, climbing steps). 

This analysis might contain a mix of anecdotal information (“Charlie benefits from multiple reminders to tie his shoes”) and absolutely must include objective data based on assessment results and ongoing process monitoring (“Charlie can read 10 words with 90 percent accuracy in four out of five opportunities”). 

It’s important that present levels are written from a place of strength, not weakness. They should focus on what your child can do.

Here’s an example of a poorly written portion: Pete can’t recognize letters, words, or sentences. Pete doesn’t use formal language. He won’t look at books, and he doesn’t recognize pictures. He cries all day and won’t sit at a desk. He doesn’t like any toys.

Here’s a much better one: Pete can express himself through facial expressions and by crying or laughing. He can tell me what he wants by reaching or pushing away objects. He can hold objects with two hands and is able to look and maintain visual attention to these objects. He loves brooms and brushes!

See the difference?

When reviewing your child’s present levels, be sure to look for these essential ingredients:

The present levels section is different from a progress report, which should go home with your child’s report card each term. The progress report outlines how your child is doing in respect to their IEP goals during each individual quarter. On the other hand, present levels should cover the entire previous year’s IEP.

Note that the present levels section goes by many acronyms depending on your state: PLOP, PLEP, PLAAFP. No matter what the name, it’s essential. With this crucial information, you and your team can devise appropriate, corresponding goals for your child’s next IEP.

Present levels is a data-based narrative that identifies the baseline where your student currently resides.

Allan Blume, educational consultant

Examples of present levels statements

Below are examples of statements for an elementary student with CVI that show his current level of performance. All identifying information has been changed. These examples are meant to inspire discussion only. Remember: All present levels are based on comprehensive assessment, ongoing evaluation, and the individualized profile of your child. 


Given brightly colored manipulatives on a plain, dark surface, Kai is able to rote count and 1:1 correspond to 14 independently. At times, he skips the number 15 and needs a teacher’s verbal prompt. He can continue to rote count to 29 with minimal teacher prompting and is working toward 1:1 corresponding past 15. 

Given 2D numbers in blue 70-point Arial font, on a backlit device, Kai is able to recognize the numbers 1-5, 7, and 10. Three out of five times, he requires a verbal prompt (such as, “Where is the number __?”) to find a certain number in an array of 2. 

In a 1-to-1 quiet and visually simple setting, with teacher modeling and verbal prompts, Kai has begun to explore addition with manipulatives and a tactile number line. After sorting 2 to 3 types of items, Kai has practiced counting each type and comparing the amounts with explicit facilitation and modeling. Kai has also practiced identifying various shapes while sorting (triangle, square, circle, rectangle).


Kai is able to produce the following sounds independently: /t/, /b/, /f/, /n/, /m/, /d/, /s/, and /z/. He is currently working on mastering the sounds for /c/ and short /a/. 

In a 1-to-1 setting, in a quiet and visually simple environment, after being read a single sentence from a story, Kai is able to answer literal comprehension questions at 90 percent accuracy. At times, he has difficulty attending during listening tasks but is learning how to ask his teacher to repeat what was read. 

Given blue 70-point Arial font, on a white background, on a backlit tablet with a single word presented at a time, repeated exposure, context, and discussion of visual attributes, Kai is able to read the following sight words independently: Kai, likes, is, can, the, Mommy, cooking, bakery, train, bus. He has been working on identifying these words in the context of a sentence.