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Understanding the Importance of IEP Goals and Objectives

July 7, 2014 in Special Education Articles by Jess

The Goals and Objectives section of the IEP is the”meat” of the IEP. Goals and objectives should be directly linked to the child’s educational needs. Special educators determine what a child’s education needs are through formal and informal assessments, through observations of the child’s behaviors and social interactions, through parent feedback, through work products the child creates and through evaluating the child’s level of success with different teaching interventions. The goals and objectives are the specific skills the child is going to learn during the course of the IEP, which is usually one year. Read the rest of this entry →

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Ten Steps to Writing Effective IEP Goals

January 23, 2014 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Dennise Goldberg

The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) requires that all Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) include:

A statement of measurable annual goals, including academic and functional goals, designed to (a) meet the child’s needs that result from the child’s disability to enable the child to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum; and (b) meet each of the child’s other educational needs that result from the child’s disability. Read the rest of this entry →

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Sorting Through Online Educational Training Systems

June 3, 2013 in Special Education Articles by Jess

Finding Virtual Learning Technology Answers. Parents and teachers are finding a proliferation of virtual remediation to acceleration brain training programs promising fast and optimum gains in learning reading, math, and science that are research based. It is difficult to believe these promises, as most often the program designers do not have a background in classroom implementation let alone e-Learning implementation, which is totally different form pure classroom teaching.

Many virtual learning entrepreneurs come from backgrounds of scientists and somewhat related fields to education like optometry (testing vision), psychiatry, psychology, and medicine pediatrics (medically treating the whole child, and prescribing stimulant medications). Others are business and technology product development entrepreneurs who have never worked in a classroom, and understand technology delivery parameters, but not how children/adults actually learn and retain information so that it will transfer into real life productivity. Read the rest of this entry →

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Using Ecological Assessments to Set Meaningful Goals for ABA Interventions

January 14, 2013 in Special Education Articles by Jess

When professionals develop ABA intervention programs for students with ASD and other disabilities, they use many different approaches when selecting goals.  Some use criterion-referenced assessment tools such as the Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills- Revised (The ABLLS-R) or The Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP) to set intervention goals.  Others use informal assessment procedures such as interviews with students, caregivers, and teachers, checklists, and informal observations to set goals for ABA interventions.  What professionals do not typically use nearly enough are ecological assessments to set goals for ABA interventions. Read the rest of this entry →

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Dyslexia: It’s all about goals, goals, goals

November 6, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

I am noticing a disturbing trend when I read IEPs and I have had some nonsensical conversations about reading with IEP teams lately as well. This trend and these conversations center around the goals section of the IEP. What this has revealed to me is what I have suspected all along – there is a lack of expertise and understanding of not only dyslexia, but the progression of teaching reading and the components of the reading process. To correct this trend I offer the following examples to illustrate some fallacies about reading as well as how to fix goals.

Parents have asked me, how important are the goals anyway?  Remember: needs drive goals and goals drive services. The school is only held responsible for the goals that are set and agreed upon in the IEP. If they are low or incorrect and the IEP is signed, the school is only responsible for those goals. It seems to make more sense to make sure the goals are written so that the child receives some educational benefit and that the goals make pedagogical sense.  For example, if there is a need for fluency improvement then there should be a goal for that. Is there is a need for spelling, there should be a goal for that. If there is a need for sight word improvement, then there should be a goal for that. If there are ten needs, then there are ten goals. There is no limit to the number of goals an IEP can have.

IEP Team: We did not include a fluency goal because he is only reading 12 words per minute correctly right now, so what is the point in teaching fluency?

For those of you who have read my prior articles, you can just insert a snarky comment here. I will only say, really? I have to admit, I was speechless while I gathered my thoughts to respond.  When reading improvement is a need, the IEP should always include a fluency goal. Fluency is the ultimate goal of reading and needs to be taught and practiced from day one. Make sure the baseline has a present WPM, not just a grade level. The goal WPM should be high enough that it would be noticeable and measurable progress. Additionally, the tool to assess should be the same for progress monitoring.

IEP Team: We did not include a phonological awareness goal because we have a vocabulary goal.

Again, this is simply a lack of awareness of the reading process. If a child is struggling with single word reading, nonword reading, spelling, and/or fluency, then it is a need and they require a phonological awareness goal. Vocabulary and phonological awareness are not one in the same; in fact they are two entirely separate components of reading. Phonological awareness teaches the student to understand and manipulate the language by understanding phonemes, syllable types and spelling rules. This is accomplished using a multisensory, structured, sequential program. Because we are talking about students with dyslexia, they will always need a phonological processing goal. It is also imperative that the program being used and the teacher qualifications be documented in the IEP – usually in the notes section.

Below is a real example. Please read it and ask yourself what is wrong with the goal.

Proposed Goal: John will be able decode multisyllabic words that include words with long vowel sounds (a,e,i) in words like turmoil and chipper.

Did you find the problems? Are you stunned? Embarrassed for the author of this goal? It is very common to see goals like this and this is a fabulous illustration of the importance of nit-picking the goals. Here are the problems: 1) where are o and u, 2) what grade level, how many words – where is the measurable part of the goal, 3) the goal states that only one concept will be learned in a year (the long vowel sound of only three of the vowels), 4) and last but certainly not least, turmoil and chipper do not contain long vowel sounds!

Below is the same goal rewritten:

New Goal: When given a list of 50 words Scott will be able to accurately decode multisyllabic words that contain closed, open, vowel teams and vowel-consonant-e (beside, statement, remain) syllable types with 90% accuracy as measured by teacher records.

This new goal includes more than one syllable type which means he is expected to learn more than the original goal suggested, it is measurable, and most importantly, the words used as examples are correct and show an understanding of what John will actually be learning.

IEP Team: We don’t really teach spelling, we just do worksheets and weekly tests.

For students who are not struggling, this might work. For those with dyslexia, this is disastrous. The fact of the matter is that most teachers and curriculum developers do not know any other way to teach spelling. How to teach spelling is a topic for another article (please see http://www.wordworkskingston.com/WordWorks/Home.html for an extremely effective way to teach spelling – I have no affiliation, but always share a wonderful resource), but if there is a need to improve spelling, then there is a goal for spelling. Additionally, this should be a stand-alone goal, not grouped in with sight words, etc.

Here is an example of an acceptable, measurable spelling goal with high expectations:

New Goal: When presented with a list of 50 multisyllabic third grade words that includes closed, open and vowel-consonant-e syllable types, John will accurately spell them with 90% accuracy.

Again, ask the IEP to document in the notes how this will be accomplished.

Some additional tips about goals for students with dyslexia:

  • Goals should say either 90% or 4/5 times, but not both.
  • Goals should be measureable.
  • Goals should respond to each and every need identified by assessments and teacher observations.
  • No one reading goal should include more than one component of reading. (i.e. comprehension, fluency and phonological awareness should not be in the same goal – they are different skills).
  • Baselines need to accurate and current. They need to include data, not subjective descriptions.
  • Improving the reading and writing of sight words are stand-alone goals.
  • Goals should be written to expect significant progress. Beware of the low-expectation goals.

Read the IEP from the top down. The present levels need to include data, not observations. Goals should be directly derived from assessments and progress monitoring. Every need should be addressed. Goals drive services, so if the goals are incomplete, low or inaccurate, the services will be incomplete and ineffective. It never hurts to ask an expert to read the IEP and get a second opinion. For students with dyslexia, goals can be very tricky, but they are the pinnacle of the IEP – make them count.

Dr. Kelli Sandman-Hurley is the co-founder of the Dyslexia Training Institute (www.dyslexiatraininginstitute.org and www.dyslexiadr.com.) She is currently writing Putting the D in to the IEP and you can read excerpts at www.dyslexiadr.blogspot.com. She received her doctorate in Literacy with a specialization in reading and dyslexia from San Diego State University and the University of San Diego. Dr. Sandman-Hurley a Certified Special Education Advocate assisting parents and children through the Individual Education Plan (IEP) and 504 Plan process. She is an adjunct professor of reading, literacy coordinator and a tutor trainer. Kelli is trained by a fellow of the Orton-Gillingham Academy and in the Lindamood-Bell, RAVE-O and Wilson Reading Programs. Kelli is the Past-President of the San Diego Branch of the International Dyslexia Association, as well as a board member of the Southern California Library Literacy Network (SCLLN). She is a professional developer for California Library Literacy Services (CLLS) as well as a Literacy Consultant for the San Diego Council on Literacy. She was awarded the Jane Johnson Fellowship and the Commission on Adult Basic Education (COABE) scholarship. Kelli has presented at numerous conferences as well as provided professional development for k-12 teachers. She is currently working on her book, Putting the D in IEP: A guide to dyslexia in the school system. Join the Dyslexia Training Institute at www.facebook.com/dyslexiatraining


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My Mom Said…No More Excuses!

October 17, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

One topic that I have discussed with many parents over the years is that of excuse-making. I know what you are thinking, “I don’t make excuses for my child”. While that might be true for some of you, my experience has proven to show me time and time again that parents make far too many excuses for their children.  I know this may “ruffle” some feathers with this article, but my intention is to really help you to embrace the strengths your child has so that they can become as independent and self-sufficient as possible. Below I have outlined some tips for success and my hope is that you will at least attempt to give these a try; Read the rest of this entry →

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Bring ABA into Inclusive Classrooms Instead of Sending Students with ASD to ABA Schools and Programs

March 15, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

As you may have already figured out by the title of my book and my previous blog posts, one of my missions is to help educators and caregivers learn how to design meaningful ABA interventions that can be implemented within everyday home, school, and community routines. More and more special schools (segregated settings) for children with ASD are opening up across the country to provide 1:1 ABA instruction. The problem I have with this is that these children are missing out on thousands of learning opportunities that occur in inclusive classrooms and inclusive schools. The reason why these schools keep popping up is that there is strong research support for ABA interventions for kids with ASD, and the truth of the matter is public schools typically do not provide intensive ABA interventions for kids with ASD within the context of general education classrooms (or even special education classrooms). So, private or publicly funded schools are setting up camp to deliver 1:1 ABA interventions. Here's one very important word of caution, though: While there is research support for the use of ABA interventions with kids with ASD, there is also research that documents that many kids do not maintain and generalize skills being learned when they are taught outside of the environments in which they will use them. Children may not maintain or generalize skills taught in isolation because the contexts in the natural environment are so significantly different from the therapeutic setting. They also may not maintain or generalize skills taught in isolation if the skills being learned are not meaningful and useful across contexts. All ABA intervention program goals should be able to answer the "So what?" question: If the child masters the goal, so what? How will it positively impact the child's life and/or the life of those the child interacts with? If this question cannot be answered, the goal should not be included in the child's program. Read the rest of this entry →

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FREE Common Core Standards App

January 27, 2012 in App Review by Doug Goldberg

Consider this your call to action! The Common Core Standards are coming to your State and every Teacher and Parent of a child with special needs MUST have this free app on their phone, tablet or iPad. As a parent of a child with special needs I don’t go to my son’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting without a copy of California’s State Standards for his grade level. I use these standards to write goals for my son’s IEP based on his individualized needs. Check out Ten Steps for Writing Effective IEP Goals for more information. With this app I will always have the information at my finger tips and I get to save a tree as well (the standards for each grade level are quite long). Since, 45 States have adopted the Common Core Standards this change effects the majority of the United States. To double check if you State has adopted these Standards click here. Read the rest of this entry →

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The Ever Changing IEP 2011

December 11, 2011 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Dennise Goldberg

Last Friday was my son’s 3 year review. It lasted three hours, which is not uncommon for a 3 year review; ours last that long even when we don’t have assessments to review. As I stated in my previous blog, my son is now in the 5th grade….yes, preparing for that wonderful time called “Middle School.” Our concerns for middle school are with his Academics, Speech/Language and Social Skills. My son’s Woodcock Johnson Achievement scores were quite surprising to us. He is now in the high average range in spelling and math calculation. However, he is still in the low average range in reading comprehension, story recall-delayed and applied problems with regards to math. He has a lot of strengths as well as many needs. Read the rest of this entry →

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The Value of Comparing Prior IEP Assessments

October 5, 2011 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Dennise Goldberg

An assessment is vital to gathering information about your child to make decisions on how best to assist him or her on their areas of weakness. As a result, they are a crucial part of the IEP process. Some of your children will soon have a triennial IEP or an IEP where you have requested a current assessment. Either way, it’s time to pull out the prior assessments and review the Standard Scores before your child’s next IEP. I bring this up now because it’s important to review where your child’s abilities were one year ago or three years ago, in order to see if they’ve improved or declined in their areas of weakness. In addition to that, you also have to look out for new areas of weakness; for example, they might have been in the average range for reading fluency 3 years ago, but currently they might be in the low average range. Read the rest of this entry →

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