How do we get our loved ones with Down syndrome included in regular education classrooms with proper supports? For most, it’s an elusive question. But it all really starts with IEP Goals.
A good evaluation drives good IEP goals, which can drive placement in regular education with proper supports. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) actually mandates specific requirements for IEP goals, but often even school personnel don’t know about these requirements. It may be up to you to advocate for more evidence-based, inclusive-driven IEP goals for your child.
Read Related Post Here: 3 Words that Will Transform Your Child’s Next IEP Meeting
Two Speech and Language Pathologists are using their combined 40 years experience at the IEP table to help parents and teachers write better IEP Goals. You may have heard of SMART Goals, which is an acronym created by a group of entrepreneurs and used in many industries. Although the acronym is helpful to the IEP goal writing process, Lara Wakefield and Kelly Ott say it needed to be expanded to include IDEA mandates. Keep reading to find out how they improved one of my son’s IEP goals using the expanded acronym: SMARTER.
“If we write SMARTER IEP Goals we have better outcomes. The entire IEP process and the student’s education depends on solidly written IEP goals. This includes driving placement to a more inclusive setting,” explains Lara Wakefield.
Overview of the SMARTER acronym:
- Specific Skill sets and observable behaviors; Use specific actions words and contexts
- Measurable with meaningful and manageable data collection, including baselines
- Attainable with an annual IEP cycle
- Research/evidence-based methods are documented in the goal
- Teachable with cues and strategies that are explained in the goal
- Evaluate the data and communicate it regularly to parents
- Relevant to the general education curriculum by citing State Standards or Common Core Standards
Read Related Post Here: 7 Research Studies You Can Use at Your Child’s Next IEP Meeting to Win the Fight for Inclusion
Lara says every part of the SMARTER acronym and the federal mandates for IEP goals back up inclusion. “If the goal is supposed to be relevant to the general education curriculum, than what better place to carry out specific skill sets than in the general education classroom. Make sure that’s in your child’s IEP goal,” says Lara. Click on the link above and you will learn that every research study since IDEA was written in the 1970s, shows a regular education setting is more beneficial than a segregated setting; even for students with the most significant disabilities.
Be careful! IEP teams who leave out the evaluation and communication of data could actually lead to a more segregated setting. “If the team has goals that don’t include meaningful and manageable data collection that they evaluate and then communicate to you, they could come back and say your child hasn’t made progress. Often they will recommend a more segregated setting to help your child make progress without proving it with meaningful data. Parents should question this approach and ask ‘where’s the data?’,” Lara explains.
I gave Lara a copy of one of my son’s IEP goals that had fallen into contention. I argued to the IEP team that the goal had still not been addressed six months after the IEP was written. When I called for an IEP meeting to review data for the goal it was apparent the goal had indeed not been addressed. I argued for more time in the classroom with a collaborative effort between the SLP and teacher, and got it. Lara said the goal left out how and when data would be collected and analyzed.