Well-written goals are the cornerstone to an effective IEP (Individualized Education Plan) but once they are written, that’s only the beginning. I’ve had many parents seek my help because their child didn’t meet their goals. This is a time when nothing matters more than smart preparation, so here are some strategies to prevent this from happening to your child.
Check The Map Often To Be Sure You’re On The Right Road
Written progress towards goals is required of all IEPs. The IEP team decides how often goal updates are provided but generally, it’s three times per year or within the same timeframe that general education students receive their report cards. Depending on the kinds of goals your child has, you may need a plan to get updates more often. Some goals require that data be collected on a regular basis to show progress. Talk with the school staff about how often they will receive data, and how frequently you can receive updates. Remember, you are an equal member of the team – you support your child at home academically, behaviorally, and socially – so you have every right to make this request. Don’t take “no” for an answer!
Don’t Be Afraid To Stop And Ask For Directions
Some school districts are hesitant to send data home on a daily or weekly basis, but I have successfully lobbied for it time and again. It’s often a lack of information that leaves parents wondering if their child is on staying on course according to the agreed upon map. I’ve worked with teams to create many different kinds of data sheets. Like everything else within special education, they vary greatly depending on the student and their goals. They can include things like:
- Tallies for on and off-task behavior (Click here for a sample tally sheet with instructions)
- Responses to group and individual instructions
- Rating scales for social engagement (Click here and scroll to pgs 44-47 for a sample Social Skills Rating Scale)
- Spotlight a success that parents can then reward at home
- Communicate problem area to be addressed by a parent or home therapist
- Skills that can be practiced at home (everything from multiplication tables to motor skills)
- Behavior support plans and reinforcement that is delivered at home
Using the Same Map Makes All The Difference
Maintaining consistency between home and school is critical for reinforcing what has been defined as the desired behavior. It allows parents to see firsthand whether the student is making progress toward their goals. The same is true for academic goals. Understand the accommodations your child uses in class and try to provide the same support while they’re doing their homework. If they are struggling to finish assignments in class, don’t immediately agree to accommodate by lessening their workload. Ask for specific information about why they are not finishing. Do they have a hard time paying attention? Do they get up to use the bathroom and miss part of the assignment? Are they distracted by the other students or noises in the classroom? Answering these questions can help you to understand the reason why a student may not be achieving as well as the team had anticipated. This information will also create an opportunity to make specific, on-target modifications rather than quickly deciding that a goal should be revised.
Whoops, I Think We Took A Wrong Turn. How Can We Get Back On Track?
If you are receiving goal updates and communicating with the teachers and therapists, and your child is still not on target to reach their goal, don’t wait until your next annual IEP meeting to have this discussion. Ask for an earlier IEP meeting. The school is obligated to schedule one within 30 days, but staff will often do it sooner if you convey a sense of urgency. Ask for current data, work samples, or whatever measures you think will shed light on your child’s challenges.
You Have Arrived. Now What’s Next?
When you meet for your annual IEP and your child has made progress, be sure to thank the team members for their role in that progress…then roll your sleeves up and start planning for the next year! If your child is delayed, they must make progress for more than one year to close the gap between them and their peers, so remember (and don’t be shy about reminding the IEP team) that as hard as you and the team are working, it’s the kids who are doing the really hard work. This is why my daughter remains my greatest inspiration and motivation. When the road gets rough I just look to her, because if she can work as hard as she does, surely I can do my part to keep her on the road to success.