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What is included in an Individual Education Plan (IEP) - Part II

Angela Oswalt Morelli , MSW, edited by Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

IEP Goals Section

dartboad with goals on itThe next section of the IEP is the goal section. Goals are annual statements of what skills or tasks the child will accomplish in the coming year. These goals need to be measurable, which means that there needs to be a specific way they can be observed and described. For example, the goal, "Johnny will do better at math," is not measurable. What defines "better?" However, the goal, "Johnny will improve his math skills 1.5 grade levels as measured by a standardized test," is measurable. The standardized test gives a scale by wish to measure Johnny's improvement, and the goal to improve functioning by 1.5 grade levels is specific. Goals do not just address purely academic skills. They should also address behavioral skills, social skills, and other functional independent living skills.

Each goal has several objectives listed along with it. The objectives contain smaller goals or action steps that are needed along the way to reach the larger goal. These objectives create measurable points along the way to determine if the youth and the curriculum are on track. For instance "Johnny will improve his math skills by 1.5 grade levels as measured by xyz standard test" is a larger goal that may include objectives such as "Johnny will meet with a special math tutor once per week" and "Johnny will utilize a math homework log that is to be signed by his parents weekly." Thus, the objectives state what actions will be taken in order to meet the goals.

It's important to note that IEP goals and objectives do not become legal requirements schools must meet. Schools are required and accountable to create an IEP for students with disabilities and then to abide by the plan described within the IEP. However, the school district is not accountable for the child's actual success. If the school follows through with all the details of the IEP, but Johnny does not improve his math functioning by one grade level, the school is not punishable.

The IEP also includes a specific plan for reaching goals and objectives. The IEP maps out which curriculum, teaching methods, related services, assistive technology, and other modifications are going to be used to implement the plan. The related services are any supplemental interventions necessary to help students meet their individual needs, such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and counseling. The plan should thoroughly describe what related services a child will use, how often, and for how long. The plan will specify what skills will be worked on, and who specifically will work with the student.

The IEP specifies any assistive technology or devices that are needed to carry out the plan. As defined by the IDEA, assistive technology is any item or tool used to increase, maintain, or improve functioning. For example, some students struggle with their handwriting as part of their disability. In this example they may need a computer or similar device so as to type out their work, so that they can focus on the true content of the material without constantly struggling with the handwriting. Other children with communication disorders that prevent them from speaking, or speaking clearly, might use computerized synthetic speech devices to help them participate in classroom discussion or conversation with peers. However, assistive technology doesn't always have to be high-tech. Some students with behavioral concerns can use a wooden flag on his desk to let his teacher know he needs help instead of spending lots of time waiving his hand in the air, becoming distracting to other students, the teacher, and themselves. Other modifications may be necessary to help students gain full access to the learning environment or instruction. For instance, a child who uses a wheelchair and plays in the orchestra may not be able to fit her wheelchair in the cramped instrument room; therefore, the band director will need to create a safe storage place for the student to put her clarinet after practice. Likewise, a student with ADHD may struggle to pay attention in class while simultaneously writing clear, understandable notes during class lecture. That student would benefit from using guided notes in class. Guided notes have the main ideas and important sub-points written out. However, there are blanks throughout the notes. This forces the student to focus in class to listen for the missing words and then act to fill them in. Guided notes help students keep focus without becoming overwhelmed or scattered trying to keep up. The IEP outlines who will maintain and implement these assistive technologies and modifications, when they'll be used, and where they will be used. Instruction and assistance may be needed to show students and their families how to use these technologies at home to complete homework. The IEP will also discuss what specific curriculum and teaching methods will be used that differ from the regular classroom curriculum. These different curriculum and methods should be tailored to each child's particular strengths and limitations. The IEP should describe who will implement these tailored curriculums, what subject areas they will be implemented in, how often, and where they will be provided.