IEP Goals, Objectives, and Sample Letters to Teachers


Dr. Seuss quote

“Do you like these IEPs?” ~Dr. Seuss poem

Some people have asked for examples of IEP goals for a child with a communication impairment such as apraxia or autism. The following information may provide both examples as well as insight on appropriate independent goals specific for your child!  One goal for example may be “out of district placement” at a private school.


From the book The Late Talker St Martin’s Press written by Lisa Geng, Dr. Marilyn Agin, and Malcolm Nicholl




The following is the “assessment and plan” section from a neurodevelopmental evaluation of a child with apraxia (and oral apraxia) designed to get the best possible services from the school system.


Matthew is an almost three-year-old boy who has a history of being a quiet, serious-looking baby with oral-buccal hypotonia and significant feeding problems, which is consistent with a diagnosis of severe oral apraxia. He continued to have difficulties with non-speech movements, including puckering his lips, licking his lips, and blowing bubbles, until recently. In addition, Matthew has a history of being a “late talker” with a speech pattern that includes groping behaviors, vowel distortions, omissions of syllables, dropped endings, inconsistency in speech productions, and difficulty imitating speech sounds other than the bilabial sounds: /p, b, m/ and /t, d, n, f, sh and ch/. He has generic words that he uses for a number of other words, because of his difficulty in coordinating the movements of the oral musculature.


Matthew has signs of a verbal apraxia which is a neurologic speech disorder affecting the motor planning and sequencing of speech sounds, which becomes even more difficult to understand with the increasing length and complexity of the sentence. His speech is so severely unintelligible to the unfamiliar listener, that, out of context, it would be almost impossible to understand what he is saying. Even in context, his speech is just a series of approximations, and his grammar and syntax is also disordered. His cognitive skills and receptive language, however, are within normal limits. Associated with Matthew’s verbal apraxia, is an expressive language impairment, with deficits in grammar and syntax as well as a limited lexicon (vocabulary) for age. Research has shown that early speech and language problems are correlated with later reading and academic problems in school-aged children. Matthew also has a coordination difficulty and sensory motor integration deficits. He trips and falls and has poor spatial awareness, running into things.  His dyspraxic symptoms carry over to the motor planning involved in gross motor activities and overall coordination, e.g., riding a tricycle. He is “heavy footed,” and fixes his right arm when he runs. He also has issues with sensory motor integration which involves processing of proprioceptive and vestibular stimuli along with difficulties with balance, equilibrium reactions and postural stability.




1.  (#784.69)    Oral/verbal apraxia

2.  (#784.6)      Expressive language disorder

3   (#781.3)      Hypotonia, coordination disorder, sensory integration dysfunction




1.    Matthew should be placed in an integrated language-based preschool classroom, with both typically-developing children and children who have developmental difficulties, where there is typically a small student to teacher ratio. The original recommendation of the CPSE evaluation team, to place Matthew in a classroom with typically developing children, would do him a tremendous disservice; he is already feeling the frustration of not being able to communicate with peers and adults, and not being understood, which has caused him to be reserved and generally non-communicative with unfamiliar people. The only person who truly understands him the majority of the time is his mother. If Matthew is placed in a class with typically developing children who may make fun of him or not understand him, this could cause self-esteem issues that could last for years to come. He also would not get the extra attention and expertise of a special education teacher who would understand his needs.


2.    Matthew will need intensive speech therapy by an experienced speech pathologist knowledgeable about working with children with verbal apraxia and oral hypotonia. He will need individual therapy at least 3 to 4 times per week for 30 minute sessions. Children with verbal apraxia do not benefit from group therapy. Speech pathologists who work with this population use touch-cue techniques like PROMPT. The therapist must be trained in a multi-sensory approach using auditory, visual, and tactile cues to facilitate speech productions. One of the significant values in correctly diagnosing a child with verbal apraxia is that the diagnosis alternatively changes the direction of the therapeutic management of these children. Traditional methods of speech therapy do not work. Matthew has had a focus on oral motor, oral sensory training, and touch-cue prompting up until now in Early Intervention.


3.    Matthew will need a 12-month program, [an extended school year (ESY)], as he regresses when he is not in therapy.


4.    Matthew will require occupational therapy two to three times per week for 45 minute sessions to improve sensory motor integration.


5.    It is recommended that Matthew receive physical therapy once to twice weekly   for 30 minute sessions to improve higher level gross motor functioning, balance reactions and postural responses.


6.    A trial of essential fatty acid (EFAs) supplements is recommended as anecdotal evidence has shown an improvement in apraxic symptoms. The LCP Solution by Stordy and Nicholl is recommended reading for background information. I would be happy to offer advice in administration of the supplements as needed.


7.    Re-evaluation is recommended in six months.


Ida Care, MD, FAAP

Sample Letters to Teachers

(from our private group ) As each child is unique use any of these as an example and adjust to fit your child individual needs.  Maybe however include a copy of this poem We Are the Parents  by Kay Kronquist


Composing a letter to new teacher for a child with apraxia


I am a high school special ed teacher and the parent of a 4 year old daughter with apraxia.


Teachers need as much parental help as they can get.


I appreciate parents who become involved in the learning process and interact with me about testing.  If your teachers school has email for the instructors as my school does email can be an easy way to find out just what is each teacher doing with your child.


Testing for a non-verbal child of your child’s age can include but is not limited to:


Listening Skills – teacher reads or tells a story and student puts pictures in order to show understanding of sequence of events.


Patterns – student can be shown a pattern and then choose an object to complete the pattern


Colors and Shapes – student can be given a template with the learned items on them and asked to identify by pointing to show knowledge of color or shape.


Math skills can be tested through writing if student has mastered writing numbers.


Spelling tests are written not spoken so standard test can be given if student has mastered the written alphabet.


A non-verbal child who has not made a written connection is much harder to test than one who is functioning at grade level in written performance.  It depends on where the child is.


Provide a copy of the book The Late Talker as a gift to the teacher at the start of the year.


A Letter To My Child’s Teacher – ADHD 


To those who may teach my child:


My child has been diagnosed as having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

As a parent, I expect my child to behave in an acceptable manner at school and anywhere else. However, I have had to recognize that certain behaviors are characteristic of ADHD. I have had to realize that while some of these behaviors may be inconvenient or unexpected, they are not unacceptable or “bad”. They are simply different.

Please keep these differences in mind as you teach my child. Correct when you must, and please accommodate -or tolerate- when you can. Please contact me if there are any questions or problems.

Thank you.

Because my child has ADHD, you may expect to see these:

Physical Behaviors

  • Fidgeting, squirming, or otherwise being in “constant motion”.
  • Clumsiness
  • May fall down a lot
  • Bumping into other students or objects in the classroom

Classroom Behaviors

  • May not listen to instructions
  • Will begin work without waiting to hear or read instructions
  • Trouble staying on task
  • Poor penmanship
  • Will lose or misplace papers, pencils and other materials
  • Will have to be reminded to clean up any work areas that may be used
  • Will probably be at your desk more often than most students
  • Will often ask questions which may or may not relate to what you are discussing
  • Will give unexpected responses to questions
  • May well turn in class work, tests, etc. before other children, but with lower quality than possible
  • Will occasionally “Hyper focus” on a topic to the point of fixation.

Social Behaviors

  • Tends to be “bossy” with other children
  • Tends to object strongly to what is perceived as “unfair”.
  • Interrupts other’s conversations
  • Intrudes on other’s games or activities
  • Trouble waiting in line
  • May ignore others or simply walk away during a conversation


Emotional Behaviors

  • Sudden and sometimes drastic mood swings
  • Has feelings hurt easily
  • Easily frustrated
  • Tends to overreact to correction or criticism



  • May appear disheveled– even five minutes after being bathed and dressed. (We TRY, honest!)
  • Often lost in thought
  • May “self-talk” with silent lip movements 


Sample letter to a teacher who wasn’t treating a child with autism correctly

(can be tweaked for a different diagnosis) 


November 7, 2002


Miss smith

ABC, AnyCity, USA


Dear Miss Smith,


Dr. B, MD and myself have had the opportunity to review your detailed observations of my son, Johnny while he is present in your classroom.


Firstly, I would like to remind you that autism is a neurological disorder. Johnny has autism and his behaviors are symptoms of what is going on in his brain at this time.


Some of the approaches you have chosen to employ have been questioned by Dr. B,. For example, requiring a 8 year old child with autism to put his head down on his desk is not only unconscionable and outrageous, but described by Dr. B as demeaning.


Having Lukas sit on the floor while you restrained him with your legs is not an acceptable restraint technique. Admittedly, you relayed that Johnny repeatedly said “no,” “stop it,” “all done,” “sorry” and “be nice.”  Children with developmental disabilities in their desperate efforts to communicate are ignored while staff force compliance for oftentimes trivial reasons.


The cumulative effects of repeated restraint can lead to diminished self-image and negative attitudes. Behavioral restraints are neither treatment nor education. They are merel procedures or methods that restrict freedom of choice and adversely affect the human development of people with disabilities. The use of restraints should be considered a failure in



What are the antecedents before the behavior happens? In order to address these issues I will be requesting additional support specifically to complete a functional analysis of his behavior in your classroom. My behavioral philosophy is that people with challenging behaviors need our support and help. Blame is counterproductive and makes the situation worse. In the long

term, teaching more adaptive skills is much more effective than only reacting.


Since all students with autism have difficulty understanding social interaction (although the degree may vary), this may impact on their school experience both within the classroom and in other school settings (i.e. lunchroom, playground). If this is the case, other school staff should be given appropriate interventions and strategies. Since these students are socially naive, they are vulnerable to predatory students within the school environment.


If Johnny has behavioral issues, any intervention must examine possible causes arising from the features of autism. Frequently the primary focus will be on teaching appropriate behavior rather than punishment. Generic behavioral interventions are often ineffective and may inadvertently reinforce the undesired behavior. For example, time out used as a consequence may increase the behavior.


Punishment focuses on the action, not the cause. It generally results in a child’s anger, disrespect, revenge or defeat.


Discipline addresses the cause of the behavior and helps create a safe positive learning environment. It takes commitment and planning.


We hope you find the enclosures helpful in dealing with our disabled son more appropriately.







Paul P





Charlene P

Depending on the child’s diagnosis and symptoms, you may want to pull information from the following document to help the teacher understand your child.


by Wendy Lawson



Parents are currently asking for management techniques for ‘autistic’ behaviours that their children with autism display.




Management techniques


According to the Oxford dictionary (1969) to manage something or someone means to be able to “have effective control of, bend to one’s will, cajole… bring about, secure, deal with or handle with skill…” This could be interpreted to mean that any strategy that can be used to successfully enable a situation or behaviour to be ‘controlled, managed, used profitably and/or contained, to produce desired response, results or profit, for the owner of such management, might be useful. However, for the purpose of this paper the term ‘handle with skill’ will be used. This implies appropriate management that both respects the client, having their needs uppermost in mind, and fosters an atmosphere of cooperation leading to desired outcomes.


Autistic behaviours


According to Wing (1992) autistic behaviours, as earlier defined by Kanner (1942), consists of: aloofness, indifference towards others, obsessive and compulsive behaviours, resistance to change, repetitive behaviours, lack of expressive language, and of ‘pretend’ play.

Specific behaviours that parents find ‘difficult’ appear to be connected to the compulsive, repetitive and obsessive behaviors that are anti social, and/or embarrassing and/or a danger to self or others (Asperger Parents Support Group, 1996).

Wing (1992) suggests that positive reinforcement of any small move in the direction desired is very rewarding. She likens it to the child’s game of Hot and Cold and says that “ultimate success is assured with this step-by-step reinforcement. Wing does, however, suggest that reinforcement is not the same as rewarding desired behaviour with an offered ‘bribe’ for change. Rather it is offering ‘encouragement’ for any sign of behaviour that is desired. The example given relates to one parent’s story of reinforcement for her son through complementing him on his table behaviour “you know, Barry, you talk much less at the table than you used to. And sometimes you listen to what others say and follow the dinner conversation.” Apparently this statement brought a marked change in Barry’s tendency to monopolise the conversation at dinner time. Wing points out that such statements or compliments need to be repeated often and follow-up compliments would enhance the learning.

Another ‘strategy’ for behaviour management is making sure that all instructions are precise and concrete. Keep all instructions simple – set up schedules of importance i.e. Brush hair, brush teeth, etc. (Wing, 1992)

Teachers at a school for autistic children on the southern region of Victoria have noted certain strategies for one child’s aggressive and/or anti-social behaviours. They are as follows:


For hitting, either adults or children, the following steps are outlined:

  1. maintain arms length where possible
  2. verbally “hands down” – conversational tone
  3. physically direct arms down
  4. re-direct to task




Adults strategy – endeavor to be at side during all activities (not in front of child). Ignore, and then re-direct to current activity.


Stripping off


  1. Retrieve clothes.
  2. Give clothes to child to dress themselves with supervision.

Throwing self onto floor

Ignore for 30 seconds – say nothing during this period “stand up” and then re-direct




Always work form the side. Ignore, move away, work with child. Return to finish task later.


Trashing room


Verbal reprimand instantly “No…” (define what it is) repeat twice. Protect other students. Say “leave table please.” Ignore, invite back to group if child says “No” leave, repeat after 60 seconds.

The above strategies are directed at behaviour only and do not attempt to understand ‘why’ the child does what they do. However, it is important to recognize that behaviour must be challenged in order to protect the child and those around them. When the child’s behaviour is appropriately reinforced then the child is being given alternative communication skills, hopefully, and is being taught that to scream, hit, bash, strip off, throw oneself onto the ground or trash a room, is not the way to express ‘discomfort, unhappiness, insecurity, or fear. The child, therefore, needs to be encouraged to express their unhappiness differently.

If the child is non-verbal, the use of pictures, colours and actions, demonstrated by the parent, teacher or professional, can be most helpful. However, this needs to be done when the child is cooperative and willing. Even when a child is verbal, colours, symbols, signs and actions will need to be used. This is so because even though the autistic child will ‘feel’ unhappy, they may not have the skills or comprehension to know what the feeling is.

According to Mohr and Sharpley (1985) self-injurious behaviour (SIB) needs to be treated with immediate and effective intervention. Apparently SIB can be catorigised into three types: medical, psychodynamic and behavioural, (Mohr and Sharpley, 1985). Medical intervention is commonly used for SIB, with developmentally delayed individuals. However, studies show that this method is rarely successful (Picker, Poling and Parker,1979); Ross and Mckay, 1979 cited in Mohr and Sharpley, 1985). Apparently, one report concluded that “medical treatment may be neither necessary nor sufficient” (Pawell, 1982:534 cited in Mohr and Sharpley, 1985). However, in a direct comparison psychoanalysis with behavioural intervention results showed that “providing comfort and reassurance, treatment was successful (Lovas, Freitag, Gold and Kassorla 1965 cited in Mohr and Sharpley, 1985).

Mohr and Sharpley suggest that mild punishment, overcorrection and reinforcement can be successful in the reduction and elimination of SIB. Verbal reprimands such as ‘NO’ and short phrases to tell the autistic person what to do i.e. “hand still, hand down” at the same time as placing hand down onto table, knee or lap, were first resources. Encouragement and reinforcement took the form of “good boy, lovely still hand etc. frequently expressed, i.e. – per 10 seconds of appropriate behaviour delivered intermittently.


The Escaper


Kate Ranking (1992) reveals in the story concerning her son that escaping from the house was “… one of Gabriel’s strongest aims in life…” Kate goes on to say that absolutely nothing could deter her son from escaping. This appears to be the case for so many children with autism (Parents Support Group, 1996). The only kinds of management appear to be those directed at implementing the child’s safety. For example “..extreme vigilance, the locking of all doors and windows, knowing the whereabouts of the child at all times and even resulting to the wearing of a bell or alarm if the child should stray beyond a certain point” (Rankin, 1992 cited in Communication Vol 26). Kate even suggests (for those who could afford it!) closed circuit TV, buzzers on doors, windows and gates, and a permanently manned watch-tower in the garden!!

On a more serious note (although Kate does have a point) Attwood (1992) suggests that some ‘autistic’ behaviours are signs of stress and expressions for ‘help’. For example: a child may bite their hand when they have failed to complete a task and need help. Attwood suggests the following:

  1. Identify any signals which indicate increased levels of stress
  2. Organize some distracting activity
  3. Encourage relaxation or vigorous physical activities to reduce the stress level
  4. Impose verbal control
  5. Leave well alone

It is usual that each autistic child will have a pattern of communicating stress. It may be certain sounds, movements or phrases that they associate with the situation, even if the words they use are reintroduced from some previous time (Attwood, 1992). Once signals are understood distraction may help. If this does not occur then relaxation with soothing music or other calming remedies may help. Some children need to ‘burn off’ their energy before they can calm down. If seclusion is necessary for the person to feel safe and separated from what was upsetting them then make sure that the area is comfortable.

Sometimes relaxation can involve breathing calmly and deeply in a controlled manner. Children can be taught a breathing technique but it takes persistence and patience (Attwood, 1992). At other times verbal control is vital for the child to know that even if they feel out of control YOU are not! Being assertive and ‘applying the brakes’ is just another way of setting boundaries. Should none of the above management skills be affective then maybe the child needs to be left alone for a short period of time in a safe place. This may not mean removing oneself too far from the person but far enough so that the individual feels that they have space and privacy to work things out.

Powell and Jordan (1992) suggest that individuals with autism can have their thinking remediated. According to Powell and Jordan, autistic individuals can only concentrate on one thing at a time. So rather than filter out all other stimuli which may interfere with the learning of a procedure or command, a way has to be found to help maintain the persons focus so that they learn how to not be influenced by distracting stimuli. This can happen by:

  1. facilitating an appropriate learning medium that takes into account any other social/affective stimuli that may be occurring simultaneously. It is not sensible to try and teach something when other things are happening.
  2. attending to meaning or selective attention is profitable to the learning process.
  3. visual mediation such as photographs, plans or outlines can help a person with autism make appropriate decisions and interpretations. It must be taken into account that for the person with autism to make a simple choice is most difficult. They need choices to be limited and not over powering.


Abnormal Posture


Kohen-Raz, Volkmar and Cohen (1992) suggest that some of the abnormal postures of autistic persons may be connected to ‘stress’ or to hypersensitivity to vestibular irritation. They also state that the pattern of lateral sway in low-functioning autistic children may be the result of general postural imaturity. If this is the case then exercises for motor control, similar to those practiced in kinder and primary school, could be helpful. Some research shows that when regular exercise is undertaken learning is also enhanced in academic ways (Sharpe and Ross, 1987:184-192).


Natural Language and Motivators


Koegel, Koegel and Surratt (1992) found that incorporating parameters of natural language interactions and motivational techniques, in autistic children with severe disabilities, reduced the number of disrupted behaviours. They suggest that results were higher when persons were naturally reinforced during ordinary conversation as they made attempts at communication. The traditional analog clinical format was not so successful during teaching sessions and more disrupted behaviours were noted.

This, therefore, suggests that even non-verbal autistic children can respond better to learning situations, when they are part of natural two way communication with motivational reinforcement.


Bladder control


Richdale and Prior (1992) noted that in high functioning children with autism, poor bladder control during the day, for children integrated into the normal school system, was related to ‘stress’. They found that the high functioning autistic children in their sample had no evidence of abnormal urinary cortisol circadium rhythm but were subject to greater ‘stress’ reaction than non-autistic children.

This problem therefore, needs to be managed with ‘stress’ relief and should be explored on an individual basis.


Attentional deficits


Wainwright-Sharp and Bryson (1993) found that autistic persons have problems with registering, processing and responding to external stimuli. Their research supports previous research that noted “attentional dysfunction underlies autistic symptomatology” (e.g., Bryson, Wainwright-Sharp, & Smith 1990; Dawson & Lewy, 1989a, 1989b). This would suggest that the giving of information, instructions or relating conversationally needs to be done simply, repetitively and in small bursts. Otherwise the person with autism may be left at the gate while the other has crossed the road.

Tantam, Holmes and Cordess (1993) also noted that attention deficit was evidenced in persons with autism. They suggest that social attention deficits are a result of neurophysiological abnormality.




This paper has only scanned the literature and is by no means conclusive. However, it is apparent that children and adults with autism respond more cooperatively when they feel valued, respected, motivated and encouraged.

Learning material, whether in the form of management techniques or new information, appears to be handled more positively by the autistic person when it is presented clearly, concisely and in small chunks.

Motivators and reinforcers seem to work well and early intervention is known to improve outcomes.




  1. Asperger Syndrome Parents Group (1996) 53 Bowmore Rd, Noble Park Vic. Australia.
  2. Attwood T., (1992) Professionals section ‘managing the unusual behaviour of children and adults with autism’ Communication Vol 26 (2) Australia.
  3. Koegel R.L., Koegel L.K. and Surratt A., (1992) ‘Language intervention and disruptive behaviour in preschool children with autism’ Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, Vol 22 (3).
  4. Mentone Autistic School, (1996) Blackwood Ave, Mentone Vic. Australia.
  5. Mohr C., and Sharpley C.F., (1985) ‘elimination of self-injurious behaviour in an autistic child by use of overcorrection’ Behaviour Change Vol 2 (2) Publication of the Australian Behaviour Modification Association.
  6. Powell S.D. and Jordan R.R., Remediating the thinking of pupils with autism: Principles into practice. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders Vol 22 (3).
  7. Rankin K., (1992) Family section escaper. Communication Vol 26 (2) Australia.
  8. Richdale A.L. and Prior M.R., (1992) Urinary cortisol circadian rhythm in a group of high-functioning children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, Vol 22 (3).
  9. Sharpe P. and Ross S., (1987) Living psychology. Brunswick Vic: Scribe Publications Pty. Ltd.
  10. Tantam D., Holmes D. and Cordess C., (1993) ‘Nonverbal expression in autism of Asperger Type’ Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, Vol 23 (1).
  11. Wainwright-Sharp J.A., and Bryson S.E., (1993) ‘Visual Orienting deficits in high-functioning people with autism’ Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, Vol 23 (1).
  12. Wing L., (1992) Autism and Asperger Syndrome. (Ed. Uta Frith). London: Cambridge University Press.


“Do you like these IEPs?”

Do you like these IEPs?


I do not like these IEPs

I do not like them, Jeeze Louise

We test, we check

We plan, we meet

But nothing ever seems complete.

Would you, could you

Like the form?

I do not like the form I see

Not page 1, not 2, or 3

Another change

A brand new box

I think we all

Have lost our rocks.

Could you all meet here or there?

We could not all meet here or there.

We cannot all fit anywhere.

Not in a room

Not in the hall

There seems to be no space at all.

Would you, could you meet again?

I cannot meet again next week

No lunch, no prep

Please hear me speak.

No, not at dusk. No, not at dawn

at 5 pm I should be gone.

Could you hear while all speak out?

Would you write the words they spout?

I could not hear, I would not write

This does not need to be a fight.

Sign here, date there,

Mark this, check that

Beware the students ad-vo-cat(e).

You do not like them

So you say

Try again! Try again!

And you may.

If you will let me be,

I will try again

You will see.


I almost like these IEPs

I think I’ll write 6003.

And I will practice day and night

Until they say

“You’ve got it right!”


Online Help For IEP Goal Writing





Designed to be used with an accompanying software program, but can be used as a reference source as is. They have large sections on objectives for various that may be relevant for your child including:





The goals and objectives do not target specific diagnosis but cover special needs in general.


Wrightslaw Game Plan: SMART IEPs

The original has access to more complete information through numerous hyperlinks.  Here is a general overview.

Wrightslaw Game Plan: SMART IEPs

by Pete Wright and Pam Wright


Diane writes: “Help! I need good IEP goals and objectives!”


I know my son’s IEP is inadequate. The school’s IEP goal for him is “Commitment to academic success.” If “Commitment to academic success” is not an appropriate goal, what should I propose in its place?


I need to find good IEPs to help me construct a model. How are measurable goals defined? Can you give me an example of a well-written IEP?


Mary writes: “Help! I need good IEP goals and objectives!”


I am a first year special education teacher. I need to see some good IEP goals. I haven’t had enough experience with this and need to feel more secure in this area. Can you point me in the right direction?


The “IEP Problem”


Diane is a parent, Mary is a special education teacher. Both are asking for help in writing IEP goals and objectives. Diane and Mary represent thousands of people who write to us every year with questions about how to write IEPs.


What makes writing IEPs so difficult?


What makes the IEP process so confusing?


When you ask for a list of “good IEP goals,” you are putting the cart before the horse!


Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance


IDEA 2004 requires the IEP team to describe the child’s “present levels of academic achievement and functional performance.” The present levels of performance should describe the child’s unique needs that result from the disability.


When you begin this process by analyzing the child’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance, the IEP process will make sense. If you begin by trying to find “good goals and objectives,” you will probably fail because the goals won’t relate to your child’s unique needs.


Pete says the IEP that Florence County prepared for Shannon Carter is one of the better written IEPs he has seen. Why? Florence County’s IEP included two clear, measurable goals:


* Shannon will progress from the 5.4 to the 5.8 grade level in reading as measured by the Woodcock Johnson Reading Mastery Test *


* Shannon will progress from the 6.4 to the 6.8 grade level in math as measured by the KeyMath Test *


What was the problem with this IEP? The goals were set too low. Shannon was about to enter 10th grade. If she met these goals, she would fall even further behind.


The IEP must also include a plan to meet ALL the child’s unique needs. The IEP should tell you exactly what the school will do to address the child’s needs. Finally, the IEP should give you a way to know if the IEP (educational plan) is working.


Your IEP Game Plan


Here is your game plan. First, download and read the following articles and resources.


1. Read Chapters 10 and 11 (Tests and Measurements 101 and 102) in Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy, 2nd edition or download Understanding Tests & Measurements for the Parent, Advocate and Attorney.


Tip: If you download this article, make sure you get the graphics. It may be better to print the article from the screen to ensure that you have the graphics.


2. Read Chapter 12 about SMART IEPs in Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy, 2nd edition by Pam & Pete Wright. You may also download a free copy of the SMART IEPs chapter from Wrightslaw for your personal use.


3. Download, print and read the IEP Tutorials and Checklists from the Fetaweb site ( is the companion website for Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy) Order From Emotions to Advocacy


How to Write Measurable Annual Goals


How to Make Annual Goals Measurable: Examples and Tips


Present Levels of Performance Checklist


Annual Goals Checklist


Short Term Objectives and Benchmarks Checklist


IEP Review Checklist


4. Download and read SMART IEP Goals: A Tactics & Strategy Session with Pete Wright


Expect to read this material more than once. Expect to read the chapters about Tests and Measurements three times. Use a highlighter. Make margin notes. Be patient.


Identify the Child’s Unique Needs


Assume your child has deficits in reading (reading problems are the most common deficit among children with disabilities, regardless of the child’s disability). To remedy your child’s reading problems, the school provided special education services for the past three years.


Do you know where your child’s reading skills are now? Do you know what areas of reading continue to be a problem for the child?


Has the child made progress? How much progress? Is the child catching up to the peer group? Has your child fallen even further behind?


What do standard scores, percentile ranks, subtest scores, and age and grade equivalents mean?


To successfully negotiate for services that provide true educational benefit, you must learn how to interpret educational and psychological test scores. Understanding Tests & Measurements for the Parent, Advocate and Attorney is required reading for ALL of our parents.


Learn about SMART IEPs


The term SMART IEPs describes IEPs that are specific, measurable, use action

words, are realistic and relevant, and time-limited.


S Specific

M Measurable

A Use Action Words

R Realistic and relevant

T Time-limited


Let’s look at these terms.




SMART IEPs have specific goals and objectives. Specific goals target areas of academic achievement and functional performance. They include clear descriptions of the knowledge and skills that will be taught and how the child’s progress will be measured.




SMART IEPs have measurable goals and objectives. Measurable means you can count or observe it.


Measurable goals allow parents and teachers to know how much progress the child has made since the performance was last measured. With measurable goals, you will know when the child reaches the goal.

Action Words


IEP goals include three components that must be stated in measurable terms:


(a) direction of behavior (increase, decrease, maintain, etc.)

(b) area of need (i.e., reading, writing, social skills, transition, communication, etc.)

(c) level of attainment (i.e., to age level, without assistance, etc.)


SMART IEPs use action words like: “The child will be able to . . .”

Realistic and Relevant


SMART IEPs have realistic, relevant goals and objectives that address the child’s unique needs that result from the disability.


SMART IEP goals are not based on district curricula, state or district tests, or other external standards.



SMART IEP goals and objectives are time-limited. What does the child need to know and be able to do after one year of special education? What is the starting point for each of the child’s needs (present levels of academic achievement and functional performance)?


Time-limited goals and objectives enable you to monitor progress at regular intervals.


Learn about Measurable IEP Goals


IDEA 2004 requires your child’s IEP to include:


“a statement of the child’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance, including how the child’s disability affects the child’s involvement and progress in the general education curriculum . . . [and]


“a statement of measurable annual goals, including academic and functional

goals, designed to 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 … meet each of the child’s other educational needs that result from the child’s disability. (See Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, page 99)


Assume your child has a language learning disability (like dyslexia). The child’s skills in reading, writing, spelling and math should be measured on objective tests before the child enters special education and at frequent intervals thereafter.


The IEP goals tell you what the child should accomplish in one year, if the special education services are appropriate. Measurable goals provide a way for you and the other members of the IEP team to determine if the services are sufficient, and if the child is making acceptable progress.




Use these tutorials and checklists from Nissan Bar-Lev, Donita O’Donnell, and the staff of Cooperative Educational Service Agency #7 (CESA-7) to fine-tune your skills in writing measurable IEP goals and objectives.


In How to Write Measurable Annual Goals, Dr. Nissan Bar Lev writes, “Remember that ‘measurable’ means you can count it or observe it.”


How to Make Annual Goals Measurable: Examples and Tips, Dr. Bar-Lev uses typical IEP goals to show you goals that are not clear and measurable, then shows you how to revise the goals so they are clear and measurable.




Present Levels of Performance Checklist. Key question; purpose; definition; key characteristics; writing strategy.


Annual Goals Checklist – Key question; purpose; definition; key characteristics; writing strategy.


Short Term Objectives and Benchmarks Checklist – Key question; purpose; key characteristics; writing strategy.


IEP Review Checklist – If you are preparing for an IEP meeting, review this checklist.


Tip: We suggest that you make several copies of the tutorial and checklists to share with the IEP team.


Note: Many schools have continued to use objectives in IEPs because objectives provide useful information to teachers and parents. Although IDEA 2004 does not require IEPs to include objectives and/or benchmarks, it does not forbid IEP teams from including them either.


Our thanks to Nissan Bar-Lev, Donita O’Donnell, and the staff of Cooperative Educational Service Agency #7 (CESA-7) for permission to use these checklists.


Cooperative Educational Service Agency No. 7 (CESA-7) won first place in the Wrightslaw Best School Website Contest. The CESA-7 site is a rich source of information for parents and teachers. We encourage you to visit this website – you’ll be glad you did!


SMART IEPs: A Tactics and Strategy Session


How can you get SMART goals in your child’s IEP? What can you do if the school wants to use “teacher observations,” not objective testing in the IEP? In an interview of Pete and Pam Wright, you will learn about:


* requirements for present levels of academic achievement & functional performance

* how to use a private educational consultant

* requirements for measurable academic and functional goals

* accommodations and modifications

* impact of low expectations

* how to avoid methodology disputes

* tutoring & how to find qualified tutors

* response to intervention (RTI)

* extended school year (ESY)

* the parent’s (active) role


Read SMART IEPs: A Tactics and Strategy Session by Pete and Pam Wright.


Learn more about IEPs.


I again suggest you visit to see the original to have access to more complete information with all the hyperlinks.




Write a Portrait of Your Child: Preparing for the IEP Meeting


To be an effective advocate for your child you must learn how to be on an equal footing in IEP meetings. You must be able to articulate your concerns and thoughts, which means careful preparation. Such preparation, while time consuming, will pay off handsomely. Preparation will give you a head start on getting your concerns and recommendations documented and considered by the other IEP team members.

The written record of the meeting is what counts if there is ever a dispute about what was said or what happened during an IEP meeting. While the district takes the official minutes, you as the parent are entitled to have your input included in the record. The best way to ensure your concerns and recommendations are in the record is to take them to the meeting in writing. You can then ask to read them out loud and request they be included with the minutes as part of your parent input to the meeting. The following strategies can assist you in accomplishing this task.

Both the U.S. Department of Education and a State Department of Education have told me of a new way to write a present level of performance that describes the whole child, his strengths, weaknesses, and needs. Rather than one PLOP here and one there, this new approach can offer a total picture of the whole child. Parents can adopt this technique, thus helping the team see their child in a new way.

Through experimentation, trial and error, I refined this idea and developed the “Portrait” as a way for parents to present crucial information to the IEP in a concise, thoughtful manner. Only we “write” the portrait, rather than “paint” the portrait. By writing a “portrait”, you can see that no strengths, weaknesses, or needs, as you know them, are overlooked by the team. While the team will write the official present levels of performance, such  input from a parent is very powerful. IDEA recognizes that parents have unique knowledge of their child, knowledge that is crucial to successful planning of placement and services.

It has been gratifying to have positive feedback from administrators on parents using this approach to present parent input for an IEP meeting. They have expressed their appreciation to parents for presenting such a concise, informative document that spells out their concerns and unique insight on their child.

Writing “A Portrait”

Writing what amounts to a portrait of your child is a powerful tool for parents to use. Such a document can help keep the team directed towards your child’s strengths, weaknesses, and educational needs. It is important to get your child front and center quickly at an IEP meeting. By reading your “Portrait” at the very beginning of the meeting you will immediately see the focus shift to its appropriate place, the needs of your child.

Benefits for both parents and the district

Such parent documentation can help keep districts in compliance with the law, since all information, including parent input, is to be carefully considered. Since parents are equal participants, a written record of parent input can clarify issues and concerns, and reduce the level of confusion sometimes present at a meeting. Parents can request that this document becomes part of their official parent input to the meeting by making that request in writing at the end of their “Portrait”. Districts have been very cooperative in this effort to see that parent input is treated as equal in importance to district minutes.

As a parent, I know how very difficult it can be to tie down your parental concerns to specifics. But as

you go through this exercise you may find your vision of your child and his or her needs come into sharper focus. You may be surprised at how much you learn about your child as you create your portrait. You will be better prepared at the meeting to ask those all important questions regarding how your child’s needs will be met. Your knowledge of his or her strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, fears, and dreams is unique and very necessary to the total picture of the child.

Step One: Document all of your child’s needs in writing

Since the team is required to address all of the child’s needs, it is necessary to assemble all of the pertinent information you have, including the last multi disciplinary evaluation, any medical or therapist’s evaluations, information from good articles or books that pertain to your child’s disability and possible needs, and your own invaluable knowledge of the needs. As you thumb through all this information, pick out all the needs you think are pertinent at this time. Write down each one as you find it. Since this is detailed work, it is best to do this exercise before you write your portrait. Think of it as assembling the essential materials before you start painting. If you try to skip this step, you may get bogged down in the details and “not see the forest for the trees” when it is time to complete the portrait.

Step Two: Paint the background

Think of the background of your portrait as would an artist. You want to show the overall colors that will set the scene for the details. For your portrait, you will write a description of your child, his personality and nature, how the disability impacts education and/or social skills, and describe any fears or frustrations. Weave into the background just a few education specifics at this time.

You will likely find it very difficult to accomplish the next step, which is to cut it down to no more than one third of a page! The shorter you make it the greater the impact will be on the team. They are more likely to pay attention. Now you will have to slash and burn, but it will be with purpose. You must choose only the most important facts.

Step Three: Insert your list of needs

This is your opportunity to see that the team considers each and every need documented in all your reports, evaluations, research, and personal observations. This is where you go into great detail. Do not worry about the length of the list. Do not worry about whether everyone will pay attention throughout your reading of this portion. The important thing is to get it into the written record of the meeting for consideration. Number each need. By numbering each need, each team member, including you, can track which needs have been addressed and which ones have not been addressed. You have a quick reference tool, in writing.

Parents often find reading articles and books on the relevant disability or disabilities helpful when assembling this list of needs. Such a book or article can put into words what we as parents often know but have difficulty putting into words. After all, we are not professionals. As you read, pick out those things that make you think “That’s Johnny!” and “Yep, that is him!” or “It is like they wrote the book about Johnny!” Of course not everything will apply, as no two children are alike. Parents must be very careful to select only those characteristics that really describe their child. This exercise can help add the appropriate details onto your portrait canvas.

Step Four: Summing it up

It is important to end the portrait on a positive note. This is a great place to write a brief description of your child’s dreams for the future, what he or she wants to become, whether the child wants to go to college, live independently, etc. Include your dream for your child as well.

Again, keep this paragraph very brief if you want to keep the team’s attention. Often parents want to include a statement that they want to see their child become a successful adult with a career and able to live independently.

Points to remember


·         Be sure to take enough copies for everyone on the team to have their own copy.

·         Keep yourself on task by reading the entire Portrait uninterrupted.

·         Write on the document that you wish the Portrait to become part of the written record, as it is part of your parent input to the meeting.

·         Do not list any recommendations in this document. The portrait is simply your assessment of present levels of performance.

·         Write a second document of Recommendations for Team Consideration and present it when the team reaches the point of considering what services and placement are needed. (Trying to mix the two into one document dilutes the effectiveness of both.)

·         Remember to take plenty of copies so each person can follow along and digest the information as you read it out loud.

Information at this site is not to be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice be sure to find a lawyer competent in the area of special education law.

Judy Bonnell  — Parent Advocate, New Mexico

Reprinted from the Winter 2002 edition of Special Edition.





In addition to the book The Late Talker, also recommended for IEP goal-writing, are the books “How Well Does Your IEP Measure Up?” by Diane Twachtman-Cullen and  Jennifer Twachtman-Reilly

“Writing Measurable IEP Goals and Objectives” by Barbara Bateman and Cynthia Herr

“Better IEPs: How to Develop Legally Correct and Educationally Useful Programs” by Barbara D. Bateman, Mary Anne Linden (2006)

“The Complete IEP Guide : How to Advocate for Your Special Ed. Child” by Lawrence M. Siegel, Marcia Stewart (2007)




Basic example



Here is one example

4) Assemble into an Objective, Measurable Goal:

– Within 6 months Y.C. will read 5th grade-level texts fluently and accurately across all settings at 150 words per minute.


If you want to refine the goals a little more, it can be helpful to include the cues or circumstances that the child will perform the task (since obviously the child isn’t doing it to begin with and I think this helps remind us that we need to DO something to help the child achieve the goal) and always add a time frame.


E.g., for this, I might add something like “With 30 minutes daily instruction in Orton-Gillingham, YC will read 5th grade-level texts fluently and accurately across all settings at 150 words per minute by March 2012.”


When making requests, in writing cite specific IDEA law to back you up. When they know that parents are ‘in the know’, they take more action.


Other Helpful Links

Written by Lisa Geng, mother to two boys that were both “late talkers” who are doing great today. President and Founder of the Cherab Foundation, and Co Author of The Late Talker book St Martin’s Press


Leave A Comment

Optionally add an image (JPEG only)

Real Time Web Analytics