Learn Your Special Education Laws, Special Education Rights, and Share IEP Goal Ideas

Jun 22
Avatar of Dennise Goldberg

by Dennise Goldberg

As I reflect on the prior IEP season one common theme continues to jump out at me.  You can’t request additional services for your child if there isn’t a written goal that the service will help the child achieve.     This is crucial for parents to understand.  A well written IEP starts with an accurate Present Levels of Performance (PLOP) that outlines the child’s strengths and needs.  If additional assessments are necessary to accurately update the child’s PLOP then make sure the request is made with ample time for the assessments to be performed prior to the annual IEP date.  Once you have an accurate picture of the PLOP make sure you write a goal for every area of need.   You would be surprised how often goals are not written to address every need and parents will have a very hard time justifying additional services without a goal. 

When Parents call looking to hire a Special Education Advocate they normally start at the end.  The conversation might sound something like this:

  1. My son is currently getting an hour a week of resource specialist support but it’s not enough; or
  2. My daughter needs additional speech services; or
  3. My son needs behavior support in the form of a 1:1 aide.

These are all the outcomes the Parents are looking to achieve but at this point I don’t have any information that will help me determine the likelihood of success.  It’s my job to take the parents back to the beginning and review all the information before making a recommendation.  For instance, if a child has difficulty with speech this doesn’t mean there should be only one speech goal but rather the IEP Team should dig deeper into which components of speech the child needs help with.  This could include articulation, pragmatic speech, receptive speech, expressive speech, voice disorders and vocabulary just to name a few.  Once you determine which components of speech the child needs help with you should write a goal for every component.  For example, in a recent IEP the Team wrote four speech goals for David (His real name has been changed):

  1. David will be able to use grade appropriate vocabulary in retelling a story in 8 of 10 opportunities with 80% accuracy as measured by data collection;
  2. David will increase correct use of conversation strategies by using appropriate social skills to communicate ideas in a small group, in 8 of 10 opportunities with 80% accuracy as measured by data collection;
  3. David will eliminate vocally abusive behaviors (i.e clearing his throat excessively, yelling, whispering, etc.) provided a variety of visual and auditory cues (i.e. inside voice) at least 70% of the time during a structured task, given opportunities.
  4. David will share information and ideas, speaking audibly in coherent complete sentences during oral expression activities in a small group, in 8 out of 10 opportunities with 80% accuracy as measured by data collection.

Once you write the goals the next question is what type and amount of services are needed to accomplish the goals in the IEP.  In the example above the School only offered 60 minutes of group speech a week.  At this point we had an easy argument as to why additional speech services should be required.  Considering the child has four speech goals it would be impossible for the child to accomplish these goals with only 60 minutes a week of therapy.  It would not have been such an easy argument if the IEP only had one goal.

As this example shows if you think your child needs additional services always remember to start at the beginning.  First, update your child’s present level of performance.  Next, write multiple goals for every area of need including all of the components.  Lastly, use the present levels of performance and goals to justify additional services.  If parents remember to work from beginning to end they should have a much more productive IEP meeting.

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5 Responses to “Needs Drive Goals and Goals Drive Services in an IEP”

  1. Great article! As I try to sum it up, the goals and objectives drive the services. As you stated, if there isn’t an objective, there won’t be the services.

    The IEP is a system that parents need to learn and often times we learn too late. If parents have the money, an advocate is so worth hiring. It is very difficult to undo mistakes. You want to get it right from the start. It will save you a lot of headaches, time, and money. Thanks, again!

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  2. Your articles/blogs are so often helpful to parents and educators, but I find them difficult to read at times because there is often a slant or an understanding that the school has a contrary agenda. The school, teachers, and therapists do not always have an alternate goal in mind. We are a team, with the parents, and make decisions as a team.

    Secondly, I am wondering about your comments about making a goal for every single need. What about students with moderate/intensive special needs? You could have an IEP with 20 goals and that is just not realistic. There has to be time to teach, as well as assess, each of these things, PLUS the academic content standards for each grade level modified to fit the student, PLUS functional skills and social skills. Schools may need to prioritize goals, but keep the other needs in mind as instruction is planned and services are provided. It’s also important to remember that the document is dynamic and can be changed at any time as the goals are mastered. Another goal/need can be added then.

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  3. Hi Morgan,

    In most of the Southern California School Districts we work in the District has a contrary agenda to the parents. Especially in this time of budget constraints. I can not speak to other Districts across the nation or yours in particular. We also understand that the Teachers are trying to help as much as they can with the constraints that the District places on them. I am always happy to post articles with contrary views so please think about writing some articles for us.

    With reagrd to your question about goals, there absolutely should be a goal for every need. I also agree it unrealistic to expect all goals to be accomplished with in school services. This is why many of my clients receive non-public agency services paid for by the School including educational therapy, speech therapy, OT, and PT to name a few. It is the responsibility of the School to provide a Free Appropriate Public Education and often times for children with moderate/intensive special needs this will include services provided outside of school.

    Thanks again for the comment and I really hope you will think about writing for us.

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  4. Doug,
    I would love to write for this group. Please let me know how/when/what I can contribute. :)

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  5. Hi Morgan-
    I think this is a great posting about how to approach creating an effective IEP. I do think there are also other considerations IEP teams should examine when making determinations about services for a student.

    Giangreco (2000) posits that teams should look for areas where there are gaps, overlaps and contradictions in a student’s program. In the example cited in the post, the goals would not soley be the purview of the SLP. The teacher could address the language and communication needs of the student. Maybe increased speech time is not required, but more team collaboration and consultation about how to address the student’s needs during the entire school day, every day.

    I highly recommend Dr. Giangreco’s website for more detailed information about decision making for related services. There is an extensive bibliography, with links to many of the sources.
    http://www.uvm.edu/~cdci/archives/mgiangre/index.html

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