Your child has a lot to gain from having a well-structured, individualized education program (IEP). An effective IEP can be the difference between your child acquiring a few skills versus several, very impactful ones. This blog will focus on aspects that will help you to select the most appropriate teaching objectives for your child.
The learner’s age should be considered when developing or evaluating a set of IEP objectives. Specifically, goals should include skills that are both age appropriate and functional for the learner. For example, a young child with autism would benefit from ensuring that his language and social interaction skills are developed. An IEP for older aged children, teenagers, or adults with autism might include a combination of social interaction skills, language skills, and functional living skills—skills that will enable them to better care for themselves, interact with others, and carryout a more independent lifestyle.
The goals selected should also be functional for the learner. As a rule of thumb, goals should always include skills that will make a positive impact on the child’s immediate life, on a regular basis. It is important that a young child knows how to label common objects and ask for things that he needs before teaching the child to label letters or perform basic math skills. It would be better to teach him skills that would allow him to better communicate with and learn from others (e.g., requesting, labeling, receptive language skills, imitation, etc.). Likewise, teenagers or adults might be better served by including goals that target their ability to live more independently and allow for improved social interactions with others.
As a final consideration, one should know exactly what the learner knows and doesn’t know prior to developing any IEP goals. While some skill deficits are very obvious to parents or professionals (for example, the learner never makes verbal requests for his preferred toys), there are other, less-obvious skills that a learner may lack, that are essential for future skill development as well. For example, these could include imitation of specific motor actions using objects or repeating specific sounds on request. Thus, it is important to use an evidence-based, comprehensive skills assessment to identify the exact skills that the individual has mastered and those that he still needs to develop. To thoroughly measure the skills of the individual learner, we highly recommend the ABLLS-R—an evidence-based assessment that contains over 544 different skills that measures skills from specific skill areas such as language, social interactions, academics, self-help, and motor skills. For older learners (teens or adults) or for those who want to thoroughly assess the functional living skills of a learner, we recommend the Assessment of Functional Living Skills or the AFLS.
Educational programming requires several factors to be considered. This blog scratches the surface on what parents should look for and why they should attend to specific variables when developing or evaluating an IEP. For more information on educational programming for younger learners or those with minimal skills, we refer the reader to the book, Getting started: Developing Critical Learning Skills for Children on the Autism Spectrum. For those who want a more general, but powerful guide to walk you through the process of developing an effective educational program for your child, we refer the reader to the book, Success on the Spectrum: How to Teach Skills to Individuals with Autism for more details and information. All of the noted products are reader friendly and will leave you better equipped to develop and evaluate IEP objectives.