As our kids spend many hours per day in the classroom, their teachers and specialists track their progress (or lack thereof) by following the goals in their Individual Educational Plan (IEP). Supporting your child’s daily opportunities to attend to language and to talk thru speech or alternative means will enrich their learning and output each day. Below are some suggestions and examples of increasing those opportunities by pairing them with your child’s life experiences.
Each year an IEP meeting for the child with special needs is held to set goals for the coming year in school. The parents attend this meeting with trepidation and are often confused as to the true purpose of this long and tedious meeting. In order to maximize the opportunity to support functional goal development, the parents can be ready to suggest ways to help the child communicate and interact with language throughout the school day. Language, after all, is the medium of the total curriculum in reading, writing and speaking.
Each goal has a particular focus and purpose with academic and communication or speech/language goals separated. When all goals have an expectation and outcome for interaction with, and learning of, language within them, we have created a trans-disciplinary environment where everyone is working on and supporting all skills. Growth is inevitable.
A math goal may state that ‘John Doe will identify the mathematic process of the equation’ and then be optimized if written as ‘John Doe will restate the directions of the word problem, show understanding of task, and then identify the process of the equation’. A reading comprehension goal may state that ‘John Doe will read a paragraph story and answer 3/5 ‘wh’ questions on 4 of 5 trials’ and then be optimized if written as ‘John Doe will read a paragraph length story and show understanding by ordering the events and describing the main idea in words and grammatically correct sentences’. Whenever there is an opportunity to grow receptive language skills and expressive communication we have supported the basis of all academic curriculum-language learning.
I have heard many comments when attending IEP meetings. ‘We do not want too many goals that make it impossible to track’ and ‘if the goal is too complex the child cannot reach them.’ That simply does not make sense. What makes sense is to individualize each goal to support areas of need and identify performance which will support growth. Viewing language as the common thread, which surrounds and infiltrates every subject will help the IEP team write the most effective, functional and language-supported goals for each individual.