Top Tips For Writing IEP Worthy Goals

If you know us…you know we’ve been researching, writing, and basically fussing over how individualized education programs (IEPs) are written for nearly 30 years. Needless to say, we have lots of opinions, but we also have lots of tips and solutions. In this blog we share our top tips with additional resources that unpack “how” to put the tip in practice.

1. Be affirmative.

Use affirmative language that conveys positive values, hope for the future, competence, and the team’s vision for ideal performance and engagement. Avoid language that expresses concern (without mentioning ways to alleviate or gain a deeper understanding), conveys unfulfilled expectations, and/or emphasizes deficiency. [blog on how to use affirmative vocabulary]

2. Use the proven formula.

Write strong goals that are functional and measurable using the “proven formula” of ABC. In the formula, the “A” is for antecedent or the context in terms of where and when the child will demonstrate the desired outcome. The “B” is the observable and measurable behavior that will ensure a child’s access, participation, and progress toward daily activities. The “C” is the criteria or the way in which performance will be measured and monitored over time. [audio lesson on the ABC formula]

3. Dig into the “what”. 

All too often teams jump quickly to how they will support a child and/or deliver special designed instruction. A critical first step, however, is to clearly define “what” the team wants a child to know or do. It’s best to spend time digging in and pealing back to uncover not only “what” can be taught and measured but also “what” matters. [blog on writing defensible IEPs]

4. Aim for balance.

Although identifying and writing measurable behaviors is important, it is equally important to attend to whether the behaviors: 1) are critical for children’s participation in daily routines, 2) can be used in a variety of settings and conditions, and 3) are stated in a way that all team members can understand. Teams need to balance a desire for measurable outcomes with IEP goals that are meaningful. [Free IEP Toolkit]

5. Write IEP worthy goals.

And speaking of balance, when we achieve a balance between measurability and functionality, we likely are ready to write “IEP Worthy” goals. These are goals that ensure access, participation, and progress in daily activities/the general curriculum. Goals that the child needs to participate in all/most daily activities. And goals that can be generalized across a variety of settings, materials, and/or people. [training video on IEP worthy goals]

6. Create a snapshot.

Use Janice Fialka’s “snapshot tool” by including: 4 things the child can do INDEPENDENTLY; 3 things the child is BEGINNING to do; 2 things the child can do WITH SUPPORT. Using the snapshot tool also allows teams to be clear about the key things they’ll be FOCUSING on ACCOMMODATIONS they’ll be providing. [pdf of the IEP One-Pager]

7. Prioritize needs.

Given the number and types of skills and processes children learn during the early years, it is often difficult for teachers and teams to determine which to address at any given time. Teams need to understand the difference between common outcomes for all children, targeted outcomes for children who are struggling or whose development has stalled, and those that require systematic instruction for individual children. Prioritize a child’s needs using the “Can Do Planning” strategy, which helps to identify what a child is already doing and their strengths, desired outcomes, and possible solutions. [blog with simple steps for prioritizing]

8. Use your superpowers.

Did you know everyone has superpowers? Yes! Even you and even when developing and developing IEPs. Superpowers not only make us unique, but make us effective and successful in our day-to-day interactions and work. Use your “superpowers” during your next IEP meeting. Not sure what your IEP superpowers are? Take the quiz here. It’s free!

9. Get an IEP makeover.

Give your IEP goals a “makeover” to ensure they are defensible, functional, and measurable. Download my FREE eBook (10+ pages) of tips, tools, and “made over” goals for preschool age children.

10. Use the PLAAFP to guide decision-making.

Write present levels of academic achievement and functional performance (PLAAFP) in such as way that it guides all other decisions (e.g., priority needs, goals, services, placement). Watch this free lesson on writing quality PLAAFP from my online IEP course titled “Framework and Formula for Writing Meaningful IEPs“.