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Socialization Goals in the IEP

Socialization Goals in the IEP

Published: Oct. 4, 2023Updated: Apr. 8, 2024

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One of the most common requests from parents is sample IEP goals to support socialization or social skills for their child.

Inclusion expert Dr. Mary Falvey spoke to Undivided about the importance of thinking about socialization as a key factor in your child’s school experience and how you might incorporate it into the IEP. Parents can encourage schools to develop kids' social skills and foster friendships in a variety of ways — writing goals into the IEP is just one of those ways. In this article, we focus on providing sample goals that might be included in an IEP, written with insights from Dr. Falvey and Dr. Amy Hanreddy of CSUN.

Of course, IEP goals are unique to each child and must always start with a baseline of where the child is at. Whether as a parent you propose your own IEP goals or try to tweak the goals your teacher proposes, you want to make sure that your IEP goals draw on your child’s strengths, support inclusive settings, and are pivotal, standards-based, and SMART.

Supporting socialization goals

Goals for socialization are going to depend on the kind of support your child needs for socialization. If your child has communication challenges, it may be difficult for them to develop social skills in a school context without targeted support. As Dr. Falvey noted, kids need situations created where they have proximity and opportunity to practice conversation with partners that have good communication skills — not just in the speech therapy room but with people the same age (including peers who do not have disabilities).

Other children might have lots of opportunities, but their disability prevents them from participating in meaningful social interaction, so they may need direct instruction and practice in social skills or conversation. We also note Dr. Falvey’s concern that practicing social skills with peers in school can sometimes be overused and create an unequal relationship between peers.

Dr. Sarah Pelangka, education advocate and BCBA-D, explains that goals shouldn’t be aimed at trying to change the person but to support them in what they actually desire for themselves. For example, it’s not necessary to establish goals for more eye contact. It can be overstimulating for their brains, it depends on the culture, and individuals can show that they are engaged in other ways (e.g., remaining in the area, facing the direction of a communicative partner, responding with related responses, etc.).

“We should aim to give them the tools to have meaningful and positive social experiences,” Dr. Pelangka says.
The goals are also going to depend on the age of your child. We have divided them up by age groups here, but many of these goals could be adapted for any age. These goals can also be adapted for different contexts, such as if the child is in a separate class or has access to peers that include children without disabilities.

Sample socialization IEP goals for preschoolers

  • During free choice play or group activities, while in close proximity to a peer, Adon will engage in social interaction with the peer using age-appropriate strategies (e.g. showing, responding, pretend play, handing or receiving an item) without touching, pushing, grabbing toys, or aggressive behavior for at least 10 minutes on 3 out of 5 opportunities, measured by data collected over a one-week period.

  • When greeted by a familiar peer, Bella will return the greeting (using total communication, e.g. vocalization, gesture, or AAC) with minimal adult prompting, in 4 out of 5 opportunities measured by data collected over a one-week period.

Sample IEP goals for elementary school children

  • When provided with priming of playground expectations, Lindsay will participate in recess play, using skills such as sharing items, taking turns and following directions and rules of games, with one or more peers (including students without disabilities) for 10 minutes with no more than 1 verbal prompt in 4 out of 5 opportunities as measured by data collected over a one-week period.

  • Given a pre-recess check-in with staff, Lexi will identify classmates whom she would like to approach and will independently greet at least one peer at recess time using total communication (AAC, ASL, and spoken language) and wait for a response with 80% success during recess across a two-week period.

  • Given priming and a shared preferred activity during recess, Miguel will invite a peer to join him and will participate in the activity for at least five minutes engaging in reciprocal play (turn-taking, following established game rules) without walking away with 80% success across a two-week period.

  • Given a visual support (e.g. funny pictures, photo book, or magazine) and communication support (e.g. comments and questions), Brenna will engage in conversation with peers (including students without disabilities), using a combination of questions and comments, taking turns for five turns in 7 out of 10 opportunities.

  • Given pre-teaching and modeling, when presented with a challenging situation (e.g. noisy, crowded, difficult task) Tom will recognize the need for and ask to take a break by gaining attention of an adult using a visual provided or pre-taught strategy and removing himself from the situation before becoming unresponsive on 5 opportunities over one school week.

Sample socialization goals for middle school students

  • When presented with a situation in which Felix needs to locate an item such as a tool, a worksheet, or a page in a book, Felix will ask a familiar peer for help using total communication (e.g. gestures, speech, AAC), wait for a response, and accept assistance, on 3 out of 5 occasions over three consecutive weeks.

  • Alphonso will choose a school club from all available options and will participate in club meetings and activities following natural cues for expectations, including reciprocal conversation with at least one peer in at least 4 out of 8 opportunities over the school year.

  • After watching how other students join games, when given a free choice of lunchtime activities, Freddy will approach a group engaged in the selected activity, watch the interaction, gain attention of a peer, and ask to join in at least 3 out of 5 consecutive opportunities

  • When frustrated or involved in a conflict, Adrianna will resolve the conflict without aggression, and will apply a problem-solving strategy such as walk away or tell an adult on at least 4 out of 5 opportunities over a one-month period.

  • Given an opportunity during Buddy Lunch to play a board game with peers, Jane will take turns and follow the rules until the game reaches a conclusion in 3 of 5 opportunities, as measured by staff observation.

  • Karen will participate in a group project, identifying their role, committing to a task and completing and turning in the task on time in 3 out of 5 opportunities with 80% success.

Sample goals for high school

  • Provided with a visual checklist, and using pre-prepared questions, Ryan will ask at least three questions in recorded interviews with peers for School News TV, with 70% success in at least five interviews.

  • Using a visual checklist, James will complete the tasks assigned to him as an office assistant, such as greeting visitors to the office, helping visitors check in, and locating the right person to help with enquiries, with 70% accuracy on 4 out of 5 opportunities over three consecutive weeks.

  • Adelina will communicate in a group chat, on the iPad, or in a group text or Google chat, typing her answer or using her AAC app, responding appropriately to at least three prompts, in 3 out of 5 opportunities, with minimal adult prompting.

Have you included social goals in your child’s IEP? Tell us about what worked and what didn't!



Sample socialization IEP goals for preschoolers

Sample IEP goals for elementary school children

Sample socialization goals for middle school students

Sample goals for high school

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Karen Ford CullUndivided Content Specialist

Reviewed by Adelina Sarkisyan


  • Dr. Mary Falvey Dr. Amy Hanreddy of CSUN
  • Dr. Sarah Pelangka, BCBA-D, special education advocate, and owner of Know IEPs

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