IEP Goals

A long-time friend commented several years ago that her youngster’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) reflected the goals of his learning his alphabet and learning to count to 100. Sequences are not this student’s strong suit, so the parents and teachers were searching for more relevant educational goals. Other parents and teachers have made similar comments about interest in young students beginning to work on skills beyond the very basic skills such as identifying colors, writing their name, and learning the months of the year, even if they have not mastered these skills.

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Some individuals with autism, of course, master rote memorization in a flash, and some students with autism function at the same level or well above their typical peers in reading, math, and other academic areas. Others students with autism require creative planning to help them develop practical, achievable goals for their IEP. This topic has filled books and has been the center of debate in education and parenting circles for years, but here are a few brief examples to turn the focus toward viable, functional educational goals.

Phonics or not? Some youngsters are able to learn to read words by sight without mastering phonics and sequencing the alphabet.

Counting or not? Some kids will never learn to answer the question, “How many apples do you see?” but they can learn to accurately follow the direction, “Please give me seven apples,” or “Get three pair of socks from your drawer.”

Color ID or not? Often youngsters with communication deficits related to autism is unable to tell a teacher the name of a color, but they can learn to follow a directions such as, “Put all the white clothes in the washer,” or “Bring the purple back pack to recess so we can play t-ball.”

Math computations or not? Some individuals with autism may never master completing math problems written on paper, but they can learn to use a calculator, sometimes very proficiently.

Handwriting or not? Although some students diagnosed with autism may not have the fine motor skills necessary for writing with a pencil and paper, they can often learn to communicate in writing using a computer keyboard.

TIP FOR THE DAY: If a youngster with autism seems to be stuck on one skill, it may be wise to look further down the road and change to focus, approaching the basic skill set from a different perspective. Look beyond the ABC’s – there is a whole world of possibilities waiting to be tapped.

NOTE TO READERS AND LISTENERS: I am Cathy Knoll, a board certified music therapist and long-time friend of many folks with autism. At we are committed to providing free, practical, everyday tips for making life better for people with autism. Feel free to send me a confidential email at with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solution. And don’t forget to check out our website for a wealth of ideas and a glimpse into the world of autism.

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