How to Write Inclusive IEP Goals
Dr. Caitlin Solone, education advocate, teacher educator, and faculty at UCLA, offers suggestions for crafting inclusive IEP goals for your child, including how to make sure your child isn't removed from the general education classroom for "goal work," how your goals can support more inclusive opportunities for your child in special education, the red flags to watch for before signing your IEP, and more in this Undivided Live event.
To learn more about crafting IEP goals, go here.
Lindsay Crain: Welcome to Undivided Live. Today we're talking about inclusive IEP goals. So if your child has a gen ed class for the majority of their day, how can their IEP goals ensure they aren't removed from the classroom, and does it matter if they are performing on grade level? If your child is in a special ed classroom and you're looking for more meaningful, inclusive opportunities, how can your goals support those needs? And what if your IEP team has no idea how to write or envision inclusive goals? We're going to give you four easy steps on how to tackle your child's goals with inclusion in mind. We're going to share a template that can help your child build or break down goals and will identify red flags to watch for before you sign that. I'm Lindsay Crain and I have the content and community teams at Undivided. With me today we welcome back Dr. Caitlin Solone. Dr. Solone is a teacher, educator and faculty within UCLA Disability Studies Department. She's also an inclusion consultant to school districts around California and a sibling to beautiful human who happens to have CP. Welcome back, Dr. Solone.
Dr. Caitlin Solone Thank you so much, Lindsay. It's so nice to be back with y'all.
LC Dr. Solone and I both know how difficult inclusion can be. There are way too many barriers. So if you're here today, we know you're in the fight or you're thinking about it. And we know it's not easy. So if you still have questions after our talk today, our Undivided Navigators would love to help. They can walk you through a personalized step by step guide detailing your biggest priorities around goals IEP. And if you don't even know where to start, they can help with that too.
Right now let's talk about how to write some IEP goals. So every student can have inclusive goals regardless of their classroom placement. And there are several kinds of goals, and we're going to touch on each, so academic goals like reading or math. Related service goals like speech or OT, and non-academic goals like socialization and behavior. So we're going to talk about how each of these fit into the four steps parents can take when considering IEP goals and how they support inclusion. But first, Dr. Solone, how are you defining goals and defining inclusive IEP goals?
Dr. S We're defining inclusive IEP goals as IEP goals that help us as the IEP team work on academic and social skills in the natural inclusive general education setting. So these are goals, they don't have to necessarily be worked on in a general education setting, but it's important to consider writing goals that can be worked on in those settings so that the goals are not a barrier to inclusive opportunities.
LC Why? Why do inclusive goals matter?
Dr. S Inclusive goals are so important because I can't tell you how many times there have been families or students who either the team wants to see included more or the family would like to see included more and the justification that's received is oftentimes "Well, they need to work on goal work, and they have these IEP goals and they can't be worked on in the context of a general education classroom." And while oftentimes that's actually not true, we can make it work. In many cases, there are some really important considerations that we need to make when we're seeking about developing and writing our IEP goals so that it is not a barrier.
LC And that actually is the perfect segue to our first step in tackling goals, which is write a vision statement. So think about what your big picture, long-term goals for your child are, and I can hear people thinking like "Why does that matter? I just need an IEP goal." So Dr. Solone can you explain what a vision statement is and why it's an essential consideration for IEP goals and specifically for our focus today?
Dr. S Yes, absolutely. A vision statement is a tool. It's an opportunity to really think as a family and IEP team. Depending on how old your child is, having your child think about what are the big picture goals that you have your child has right up for your child's future. And a vision statement allows us to write out those things. Like what what are your dreams or wishes for your child, what are their own dreams and wishes for themselves? And when we have that as kind of our anchor, then we can always return to that anchor to figure out what steps we need to take to really arrive there. Those vision statements allow it to come to fruition. It also can be as simple as "I want my child to be surrounded by people they love, to be happy and healthy, to be able to go to the store and use a credit card have a conversation with people around them." Or it could be, you know, "I want them to be able to go to college and to have a healthy relationship and to advocate for themselves." I know I hear from a lot of parents with younger kids who are like "I have no idea" and sometimes parents can almost think of a vision statement as almost being, like, painful to think about.
And I think oftentimes the more simple, the better. We don't know what the future holds. I really have no idea. And we don't know what our child's dreams and hopes are for their future. So the broader we can be, oftentimes the better when we're thinking about the vision statement, surrounded by loving community, has close friends, has the ability to go into a store and pay for their groceries using whatever modality works for them. Maybe with support or not, but it's really difficult to envision what that future might hold, and you don't have to get get caught up in the what ifs when writing a mission statement. Instead just think about, ultimately, at the end of the day, what are a few of the most important things in anybody's life, right? Contributing to society, having a strong social network, or at least a core group of people who really care about you and you care about that, like thinking about what are the top three or four most important things for you for your family, or your child from their perspective and then going from there. It can be really easy to get caught up in either catastrophizing or going off of what everybody else around you saying all the time. Just take a step back and really just allow yourself to think about what matters the most, and just go from there.
Once you start imagining that when you're writing it down, whether it's in your head, we have the vision statement and we know now what all goals should be working towards, so now we have to think about what we want our child to accomplish over the next year in school that moves us closer to that vision.
LC So step two, you identify what you want your child to do, and so for example your child has dealt with fine motor and holding a pencil or for PT they need to learn to access the playground equipment safely. But for academic, how can we identify what we want our kids to do in gen ed, if they aren't performing at grade level?
Dr. S So in general, when we're talking about academic goals, all students with their IEP goals no matter what level they're working at, what their skills are, all of their IEP goals that are general education standards are addressed in the age equivalent classroom. So a child, for example, no matter what setting, they're eight and they will be working on third grade standards, and the students are able to meet those standards. Then we would want to take a look at the Common Core Connectors and the Essential Understandings that are connected to those and their resources online.
So what is your vision statement? What are the standards for that grade level? What are the most important standards that are going to allow us to get to the next step? What are the things that are going to be addressed throughout the year? What are the really important skills that roll over from year to year across grade level? You might be thinking as parents "I don't know I'm not an educator," right? Absolutely fair. If you just take a look at the standards and start to read through them, see which ones stand out as being really useful skills, you don't have to be an expert or an educator to start to look through those and think critically about the big picture, and sometimes that's what gets lost when teachers or IEP teams are reading their IEP goals. Teachers are in the classroom all day long and they're working on, you know, this certain novel or certain unit in math, graphing, and then oftentimes we get tunnel vision type IEP goals that are more challenging to implement or work on within the context of general education classroom that's moving through content and curriculum pretty quick.
So to simplify that even further, let's say you want your child to read more words. And you don't really know, we're not teachers who don't even know really what to request. So all that you do know is that your child might be getting similar goals each year, maybe adding more sight words each year or level reading from grade. So to get some ideas for more inclusive standards, consult that list of Common Connectors, look at your child's grade level, maybe the year before and then identify and discuss the skills that they need to participate in that curriculum throughout the year.
And then think about what supports they need, so think about the big picture. Think about what you want them to be able to do, how it's connected to that ultimate vision, and then think about what supports they're going to need to reach those goals. They're going to be working on goals. What components in the goal can we tweak so that it can be really relevant?
LC Before we jump to the third step, I know I always say this, but just to clarify everything you just said, if a student requires modifications or modified grades, they can still receive the standard goals that are adapted for their appropriate level in that gen ed setting, correct?
Dr. S Yes, and all students' goals should be connected to general education standards. All students should have access to the general education curriculum, and all IEP goals should be aligned with that curriculum.
LC So does bring us back to that third step of how can your child be in that classroom? So we have our vision statement, we've identified what we want our kids to do, and so now we have to consider the supports that our children need to reach that goal. So first what kinds of supports can be critical for inclusion?
Dr. S Yeah, great question. So the supports that are critical for inclusion, I think it's like working with peers thinking about what different aspects, like what different tools, technology, assistive technology, what different tools does the student need to really thrive in that setting and reach those goals, which are kind of held up as strategies, but they're also, you know, they're they're tools that are helpful for students for accessing their curriculum, right. So what types of tools do they need to be successful? Who are they working with in the classroom and in what context? Are they being able to achieve these goals? So this is where accommodations, modifications, like that's where some people have three pages, other other kids might have a page and a half of accommodations that they might need.
LC Are there some examples that you can throw out that are, you know, accommodations or modifications that can make your child successful and a gen ed setting?
Dr. S Traditionally, teams might say it can't happen, they need to be in a specialized environment, but actually, with the right supports that can support things like a calculator, a label maker if dexterity is challenging. You're wanting to fill in the blanks. Things like speech to text capabilities, access to a laptop or computer or different applications that support with writing. There's lots and lots and lots that we can do and so many tools that we have nowadays to help with access, different things like using certain pencil grips or utensils in the classroom or typing instead of writing different things like that. Gosh, to go on a small tangent, I can't tell you how many times like writing my sister's name was her IEP goal so she will be able to write her name. That was her IEP goal for probably, I don't know, gosh, like six, seven years in high school yet still was having difficulty writing her name. And so it's important to think about, okay, well, that doesn't need to be a barrier, right? She's expected to write her name on every single worksheet, and if she was included, then likely cause challenging behavior and things like that. So be okay with the way that she's writing her name. Right?
So different tools like that to increase efficiency while also working on the skill. So you don't want to just give up on certain skills, right? You want to have certain strategic times to work on, but you don't need to be working on physical act of handwriting, for example, during composition time, when students are writing an essay, if that's a really challenging skill for students, they might have access to be able to dictate their essay or fill in the blanks and have kind of a sentence frame or put together sentences in the right order. So doing things like that can help a student access the curriculum, rather than be struck by the barrier of the physical act of writing, if that makes sense.
LC A lot of parents hear "Well you haven't mastered this goal, so you're not ready to go into that." Like goals really sometimes can be used on their own as a barrier, but you didn't get there yet. Like there's some test that you have to pass to be able to get into that gen ed class.
Dr. S There's no test that you have to pass and there's no eligibility for being in general education, if a child thrives in a gen ed setting, and that's where they can be pushed in to the greatest extent possible, and we're able to provide them with the support that they need in that setting, then that is their least restrictive environment setting. If the student is saying that they want to work on certain things, or they're working on the articulation in speech, then yeah, sure. A different setting might be more appropriate in this case, but oftentimes should be kind of flip flopped, where oftentimes we think of students receiving special education services as needing to go elsewhere and that's when they're really getting what they need. And if they're in a special day classroom or resource classroom or speech therapy room, then then they're actually getting the intervention support that they deserve. When in fact, all of that can happen in gen ed, and should happen in gen ed, and when it does happen well in gen dd, we see kids really thrive and really make great gains.
LC Yes, 100%. And then you also had mentioned what supports, which definitely also brings up the aide, so I just wanted to make sure to touch on that because it can't be used as an excuse of like, "Well, your child can't sit in a class on their own without help their compute aide," whether that's a classroom aid or one on one. So again we don't want those needed supports to be used as a barrier. So I don't know if you want to say anything about that for aides as well.
Dr. S Yes, definitely. For students with more significant support needs an aide in a gen ed classroom can absolutely be crucial and necessary. There are some times when we don't want to rely on aides. We want our students our children to be as independent as possible. So kind of an aide can be a crutch. Sometimes it can result in learned helplessness where a child learns that if they pretend like they don't know or don't work for long enough that the aide will do it for them. So there's a lot of reliance on that, but it can be such a helpful tool to have, so yes it can be included into an IEP goal, where it identifies whether a student is performing that goal in the context of a group of peers or with adult support, and things like that, or after after a teacher checks in and make sure the student is set up for success, the student will do XY and Z. So really building in those supports to the IEP goal to make sure that a student's not just expected to meet the IEP goal without the supports that they need. We see oftentimes that will then lead to justification for removal from general education.
So we really want to kind of build in those safeguards into the IEP goals so that when it comes time to reviewing the goals at the annual IEP or during progress reporting periods, then you have data that hopefully reflects those goals and how they're being met with the supports that are embedded into the goals. And I would say if you have aides that are doing too much for a child and not helping build their independence, and if the child still does require that, then I would say they need to do some better training, which we all know these days can be so crucial. So we need more support for all of our paraprofessionals.
LC Darcy had a question in the chat, she said what if a school keeps saying that your student does best in small groups and that is why they must be in a special day class versus gen ed and therefore refusing aide support?
Dr. S So saying the student does better in small groups so they need to be in a different classroom, and we're not going to give them an aide in gen ed. I would assume that's not true. That happens a lot too. Especially right now during we have an aide shortage. And schools are trying to get by with what they have. And sometimes, of course, when kids aren't included there does tend to be a tendency to need more sometimes right? Rather than being in a self contained classroom where maybe you have a resource classroom where you have maybe, you know a handful of aides supporting the whole classroom. And so yes, that is a justification that I've heard quite a bit. And small groups happen all the time in general ed. Well, if you're an elementary school where they're not doing small groups, then that's a problem.
Yeah, I would say this is tricky. And I've dealt with this with districts in the past where they're really making the case for why the student needs to be in a different setting and really making the case for why they don't want to try a roundabout way for why they don't want to provide an aide and, you know, a child's least restrictive environment is where they're going to thrive. You have data or know that that environment is where they can thrive best, then, not wanting to provide gen ed is not an excuse. And only because they do well in small groups is not an excuse for removal. I have seen it where the small groups and pull-out time if a school or the data showing that that student is really thriving in that environment and making progress on their IEP goals, and then maybe has an opportunity in gen ed and isn't thriving in the same way, that then schools will use that as justification. But I would ask them, what data they have to support that. Then the student does better in that setting, as opposed to general education setting. Yes, and if they have data to support that, is it comparative? And if it was comparative, is the student receiving the same supports in gen ed as they were receiving in a separate classroom? Asking questions from the district and really trying to get the data. And sometimes that's tricky because people aren't always providing the right supports in gen ed. Sometimes it's tricky because it depends on who's taking the data and what their motives are sometimes, right? So it's definitely a tricky situation. In that case, it's really difficult to fully enjoy thinking about so maybe my child does better in the setting. Perhaps, can we make sure that they're then pulled out for just math block, just reading block and it's not on whoever's the teacher? They're scheduled, but it's really following along with the student's schedule in our classroom. So they're not missing out on other subjects.
LC But what about the kids who there isn't data because they've always been in special ed, but they want to try gen ed so there isn't data. And they might say, "Well, they're making progress in their special ed classroom," but they have been given that opportunity. Then, you know, this could be a question really for an advocate or an attorney as well, like how we work that in the IEP, but is there anything that you want to say to the families who are thinking we haven't been able to because they haven't allowed us?
Dr. S Yeah, so there is no data, but like, there's no data but it's because they haven't been given that shot yet. I would say, remind your IEP teams that IDEA says that all students with an IEP should be included in general education and learning alongside non-disabled peers for the greatest extent possible. And we can kind of safeguard our IEPs by considering how to write our goals in ways that can be worked on in general ed. So then we can make the justification for "Okay, well, maybe, maybe we're not gonna make that full transition in gen ed for the majority of the day or even a huge chunk of the day, but my child in is in gen ed for history, for science, for readers workshop, which is individualized. Can my child be in there just for certain parts of the day so we can see how it goes?" And when we have our inclusive IEP goals already created and making sure that that those are the way that the goals are written, we can kind of mitigate the barrier that oftentimes is what your child needs to work on, and that can't be done in gen ed.
LC Isabel had another really common question that unfortunately is common for families, which is how do you answer a gen ed teacher who says there's a gap between her and her peers and we're worried about this gap widening too much? The implication is that therefore, this isn't the best placement for her. She's a first grader with Down syndrome fully included in the gen ed class. She's making progress on her goals.
Dr. S So one thing that it's really important to remind our general teachers is if your child is far below grade level, or if they're not working at the same rate as their peers, that teachers are not expected to catch students up. A lot of times gen ed teachers feel like they have to, and so they feel like, "Oh, gosh, this student, there's a huge gap and I don't know how I'm going to be able to catch them up. And now I'm starting to feel bad about my abilities as a teacher." I can't tell you how many times I've seen this play out. Once teachers hear that your job is not to catch the student up to grade level, your job is to support the student in making progress on their goals and progress in the curriculum at their own rate. It's okay if that looks different from everybody else. But reminding teachers of that and giving them the permission to accept that can go such a long way, and oftentimes, it needs a little reinforcement. So you say it once and it comes up again. Say it again comes up again, say a couple times, don't give up on reminding teachers of that because it can just be that automatic kind of tendency for teachers to go down that path. And a lot of that stems from our kind of punitive system for teachers historically around testing, and if students aren't at grade level and how that penalizes teachers, so there's some roots there that have to be dismantled a little bit.
LC Even as you're saying that, like you're saying, we have to say that to teachers, I mean, that's a good reminder for me as well as a parent and for all of our parents to hear that. And, you know, I even on this felt like a sigh of relief as you were saying that it was like yes, like, right. I mean, I will say in my circumstance, right, like that's not our goal. Obviously we want to close whatever gap we can, it's not going to be completely closed for a lot of kids. And so that isn't the point and that they shouldn't feel like that is the ultimate for some kids. Sure. Of course, we want to close that gap. For others, like you said it is otherwise about progress.
So somebody new just made a follow up question, she said, "So the main argument would be that my child can make progress/could possibly make progress on their goals in a gen ed classroom." And so she said that would be the main argument, right?
Dr. S Absolutely. In fact, you know, oftentimes, if you're writing really intentional goals, children can make more progress on their IEP goals because we've considered the big picture considered the environment and now we have many opportunities to work on these goals throughout the day, rather than just during math centers at station three, right. It's really also about thinking differently about our goals. So often, when I first started teaching, I would write really specific goals to solve math problems, you know, using a checklist, things like that, right? And when we do that, it becomes really narrow. And if you can imagine what that would look like in a special day classroom, or resource classroom, would probably look like a whiteboard or some worksheets that have those types of problems and very rote, redundant skill work. If we think about what is it we want our child to be able to do? We want them to be able to recognize math equations, recognize what operation needs to be performed and be able to then solve that problem, either by hand, by using a checklist, by using a calculator to get the sum. Maybe you want them to practice solving it and then check their answer using your calculator.
And so when we think differently about our IEP goals, really thinking about how are we building the skills my child needs to thrive, rather than "I need my child to do this really rote skill and be a master of that," what often happens is we don't always have the best ways of measuring student progress, especially students with more significant support needs. And so what often happens is that working on these really rote skills, I mean, students are getting sick of it right, year after year after year. And if we don't have great tools to measure it, and our tools are saying, Okay, we have the right supports in place. And our data is saying, okay, the students are meeting the school or making slower progress, then we just keep building these like baby steps, right? And they're just really small, incremental steps and oftentimes the children aren't super excited about doing that work.
So when we take a step back and say, okay, this skill is identify the problem, the operation, find the solution and check the answer. Then, you can apply that to all sorts of different types of math problems across any unit, right? And if the child can master that skill, then then we got a lot to work with.
LC 100%, and I see there was another question that actually leads right into our step four. And the question was, What if most of his goals are meant to be met in a one on one environment with specialists? So I want to just hold that for a minute because that actually is the perfect segue to the step four, because now we have the vision statement, we have our goal or supports. So now we can underline some of the necessary elements that both support and require an inclusive setting, and we can write those directly into specific goals. So step four is use language within your goals that includes inclusive environment, and this wouldn't be appropriate for every goal, But Dr. Solone if you can explain really what that means and give us some examples of where this could make sense.
Dr. S Yes, absolutely. And again, to reiterate, this wouldn't necessarily be appropriate for every goal. And if you're trying to be really specific about the where you might get a lot of pushback from your team, but for example, you could say while participating in eighth grade biology, John will be able to name and describe four main ideas for each Biology Unit. Using an app, adding in some really specific examples about you know, when provided with 10 options, we'll be able to pick out four of the big ideas, and then that's applicable, right, like it's important to understand what are the big ideas that we're learning here, or maybe you want to have an IEP goal about the scientific method, right, we'll be able to identify the steps of a scientific method, but making sure you add in there, like where the student should be working on it.
You can say things like, when working with a group of non-disabled peers, John will be able will follow the steps of the science lab and be able to outline the steps and have a peer check their work, right? Things like that. So really thinking about what does the goal imply? And so I really like that question that's in the chat about the setting and how so many goals are written to be in a specialist setting. And that oftentimes happens because it's how it's always happened. What the norm has always been for so long and so thinking about the setting works specifically where am I saying this student is meeting this goal in the different groups, like when working in a cooperative group with two to four non-disabled peers. Jane will be able to name describe, or Jane will be able to take turns, four out of five opportunities, that really gives the opportunity for flexibility and repeated practice in many different contexts. So it's also really powerful for generalization too, because you're not just working on social skills or academic skills in one specific context, but you're working on a bigger set of skills across multiple contexts and with peers and groups in the natural settings. They are going to lend themselves well to a child's ability to survive later in life.
LC We had a lot of questions that came in before about speech goals, right? That seems like a great opportunity. Can you just sort of give an example of how that can sound?
Dr. S Again, so maybe it's not in that pullout environment with, you know, maybe one other person, sometimes that can be appropriate, but if you're looking for an inclusive speech goal, for example, when playing a game with peers, and sometimes you can add non-disabled peers if you want to be sure that the student is really having access to this non-disabled peers, which the law suggests is very important that should be happening for both, right. And not to diminish the importance of having friends who are like us right? Having those strong relationships with other students with disabilities, that is a beautiful thing. It should be happening for sure. And we're talking about inclusion is kind of the tricks to make sure that that's happening in this setting, but in terms of a speech goal, so you know, one example of a speech goal that can happen in the context of an inclusive environment, whether it's in the classroom or on the playground is when when working in cooperative, or when engaged in cooperative groups with non-disabled peers, Joey will engage for reciprocal exchanges with his peers with prompting from the adult, that's facilitating cooperative groups, right. As opposed to when asked certain questions with the speech and language pathologists Johnny will respond in the right way, right, or however those often sound. So really taking it into the natural environment and setting it up in a way that is going to really allow for that reciprocity and flexibility.
LC And I just wanted to remind everyone that this seems like a lot. Remember at the beginning that I mentioned a template and so we collaborated with Dr. Solone and she designed a goal template that can be used for any IEP. So whether you're brainstorming your own goals, or you need to break down the suggested goals that you're receiving that IEP draft, this template is really a formula that will remind you of all of the necessary points that we're really hitting on today. So keep that handy when you're prepping for your writing. I also wanted to talk about several other different types of goals, and another huge goal area to consider is behavior goals. Behavior is a frequent barrier, as many of us know, to inclusion so can behavioral goals actually help support inclusion?
Dr. S Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. And I know we said this, maybe I sound like broken record, but behavior is not a barrier to inclusion. And there's no precursors you'll have to graduate or have a certain skill set in terms of general education classrooms. Really thinking about what my child needs or like, what are the roots of the behavior and how can we address our goal, and how can we give my child the support they need to really thrive in that setting? In terms of the behavioral supports, whether it's adult support or peer support or using certain certain structures, writing things that you know.
LC I know my daughter, she likes to her hands to be moving. Some need wheelchairs, like your kids might need. These are all things that can help your child, obviously dependent on the child, that they can help children be able to be successful in that classroom as long as they can have those supports that they need. You know your child if they do have behavioral issues, can they be better? Can they be in full job other than just art and music?
Dr. S Absolutely. I don't know why the common perspective is that is that if a child has challenging behavior, they can't be in general education. Of course, it takes time, any new environment will take time, and a child's setting is not going to switch a child's behavior most likely overnight. But when we add in those proper supports, it can change over time. And oftentimes what we see is that some some children don't prefer gen ed instruction, but some really do. And when we switch their setting and put those supports in place and follow through and are consistent and give them what they need, that they can really thrive, and then you notice that their behavior just just improved substantially because they have 30 peer role models all around them. Not always but so many role models, they have motivation to do the things that are asked of them when put in place properly. They have just built-in reinforcement around them at all times. And really goes a long way.
And I think as educators, we can oftentimes get lost in the fear of the what is like, "Oh, this child has behavior so they can't be in gen ed, they're gonna disrupt everyone else." Well, you walk into a gen ed classroom and, you know, the kids with disabilities are not the only ones to have challenging behavior. And oftentimes, the challenges that are oftentimes reported on or complained about when it comes down to it are not behaviors from kids with IEPs, sometimes they are, that's okay. We have to really figure out what is the function of it and what supports are put in place. So if we're thinking about inclusive IEP goals around behavior, it's also thinking about embedding supports that will help with your IEP goals that are academic, social, different, they don't just have to be behavior. So when Johnny has access to fidget fidget options, Johnny will use one of them during the lesson, and will attend to the lesson instead of calling out or instead of hitting the desk or not really thinking about what replacement behaviors that are prosocial that we all really engage in. We don't notice, like, what do we do when we're in a long meeting and we're tired, but we want to be respectful.
Our kids can learn to thrive in their settings and feel good about being where they are. Right gen ed does not mean that there's not a definition of gen ed that you have to be able to sit there and attend for middle schoolers, 90 minute classes, right? You don't need to just be able to like take it or you know, forget it right. If you require a break, you know, I know so much of it requires really reimagining of what education has been thought of. And you know, obviously, with teachers so everyone's comfortable, there's just there's so much work to do.
But when we talk about inclusion, it's not just about our kids, truly. It really is about looking at the education system and making it what it should be for all children. But I wonder if parents do have examples of IEP goals that they have that are really restricting or that they want to kind of reimagine how what it would sound like if any of them, I don't know if we have time, probably don't, but that's a great idea, throw it in the comments. I'd love to hear what you had to say about that.
LC Well, and another question that comes up very frequently, and we definitely heard from parents, if an IEP team doesn't know how to write goals for the child in a gen ed setting, might not be on grade level or maybe they just need heavier accommodations for a specific learning disability. What do we do? Do we whip out our old templates and you know, make some copies and pass them around the table? And what do we do?
Dr. S You know, there's no malice. They don't know what to do or where to start, and that's a real problem. And that's when it's so important to really remember that. Our IEP team is the team, and oftentimes parents feel like that because just because of the way it's structured, administration, all of that stuff right. But yes, help your IEP team to learn, and most teachers are not ill intentioned but don't have the skills or knowledge or understanding. So yes, given the goal template, show Common Core State Standards with the Common Core Connectors, and the Essential Understandings, and show them how much easier it can be to imagine what a child might be doing or working on in the context of their classroom, their skill level and when you give them those tools.
Anytime I've ever been with teachers, they've been blown away by how awesome those resources are, wishing that they had been aware of them sooner, and I myself included. When I first started teaching, I didn't have access to the Common Core Connectors and didn't know they existed. Essentially, no idea. And yeah, that would have been really nice. I would have jumped on it, forever grateful. Goals are so hard anyway. But when I think about how I was trying to approach goals before I knew about the Common Core Connectors, oh my gosh, now I know where to go. I know where to start. And even if I don't know where to go, after I look at it, it's like okay, we want to do this, this and this, but that's where the team conversation comes in.
But yeah, I also think we definitely need to touch on who is responsible for overseeing and implementing your child's goals in an inclusive classroom as a team. You'll have to check with your team for who they think is responsible. So I would ask your team who they think is responsible for implementing taking data and the goals. And that would be then a conversation to have with the team about how to really strategize and make sure that Johnny is working on these goals, you know, in a certain environment, that it's been planned for during these different units that are coming up. How is Johnny going to access these units coming up, and how can we connect goals with the unit, and how can we really ensure that he's getting strategic practice in a way that's meaningful for Johnny?
LC We are getting some questions really quickly, but before we get to that, and I think somebody has given some goals that people are sharing, but I want to touch really quickly on socialization, which obviously is as important a lot of what we're talking about on academic goals. Like socialization seems like obvious places to be inclusive, but a lot of families don't think to include these kind of goals in an IEP. So are there some examples that we should consider to put into our IEPs that that promote the socialization?
Dr. S Absolutely, yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So thinking about what what skills should my child have with other peers, right? And so thinking about what happens during the day? Well, all the kids come in the classroom during the day, and if my child is working on a very appropriate goal to have those reciprocal exchanges, what else happens all the time, right? Sharing, taking turns happens all the time. Let's see. What are those skills within that time? Getting reports that Johnny is having challenges working with his peers or getting upset with this way of thinking about people. What can I add in? So let students break up into groups and work with priming specific rules that have been reviewed with Johnny. Johnny will follow the rules and utilize replacement behavior when he gets frustrated or will communicate with his peers when things are challenging and frustrating. So thinking about what are those specific things that happen in the classroom all the time. When is my child successful? Also talking about setting, also not academic. Make sure that if your child doesn't want to, they're not sitting in their in their special education classes. They aren't doing specials like art, they're going to be with other kids, peer models, just writing those kinds of things into all the settings for whatever makes sense.
LC We're dangerously out of time. Really, really quickly I do want to ask you one or two questions about what are the three red flags to look for in an IEP?
Dr. S Just having a location only. If it doesn't have a location that allows for some flexibility if you want. The first one is the gold, that's the grade level general education. Right. So, specificity. Looking at this is going to be doing it with the speech and language pathologists. Those things are limiting location specificity. Okay, it says the speech that's good. Okay. It says just speech teacher. That's not really going to be helpful for generalizations, and I want to expand it a little bit. Just pragmatic. So, thinking about those three things are key, and thinking about what supports my child to try with this skill so that they can be as successful as possible, and no one can say that they're not a goal if they haven't already put those things in place. Right? Because it's like if you have a competition to center it. But if they're not directly attached necessarily to certain goals, then the likelihood is not going to be implemented 100% of the time for your child. And so if you can write those things in the goals, it also protects you from having them work. Or a solid IEP goal that can be more like bad justification for lack of progress. And I would say don't stress about this, right. Like, if you could just take a look at one of your child's goals. Just take a look at one of them and see how you can tweak one goal. And then the next time you cycle, maybe really tackle two of the most important ones that you're adjusting, right? Or maybe you feel like you have the capacity to tackle or but don't put that pressure on yourself to really like hold an amendment right away change order. This is food for thought, and it's an evolution, like we're always learning and growing. And it's okay if it's not perfect right now. It will never be perfect, right? We are learning all the time, and we're learning all the time. I wrote my first couple years of teaching, you know, you didn't even know the last couple years of teaching and it's like yeah, there's a lot of things I would do differently. And when you know more, you know better. You can do better and can't do it all.
LC I also have to say I see all of these amazing questions coming in, and a lot of them you know, they're excellent questions that are a little more general about IEPs. And because of the time ,I'm gonna touch on this in a minute, but I just want to encourage people next week we're gonna be talking to Dr. Sarah Pelangka, an education advocate, we're going to be talking about LRE and the IEP. So we're going to be covering a lot of the questions that that you are talking about, about like getting teachers and can we have IEP goals during an immersion program, and all of these great questions, so please, like, you know, bring those back, because I know we can sit and talk for Dr. Solone all day, but unfortunately, we don't have all day.
So it is unfortunately time to wrap up, but I thank you so much, Dr. Salone. You know, goals are always a tough subject. It can be very overwhelming and extremely frustrating to figure out what's appropriate and challenging for our kids. These are inclusion on the top and it's a tough order for many districts. So thank you for breaking it down in a way that's hopefully sparking ideas in the brains of our parents and even from comments. So thank you for infusing us with empowerment and we want to optimize our kids goals so they can be meaningful members of classes, their schools and beyond.
To just remember exactly what you're saying, Dr. Solone, you know, when you feel overwhelmed, just remember those four steps, right? Vision Statement, what are they going to do? What supports do they need, and how can I write into these specific goals? So you know, it still feels like a lot, just grab that template that we provided and just really work your way through that, which really breaks it down. And if you'd like to work on that with somebody, you know, we can help with that. So if you want a deeper support, and a one on one guide to talk through these four steps, or get those goals into shape, or explore other ways that you can advocate for more inclusion, our Undivided Navigators would love to walk you through it. Our mission is to support you so your children can thrive. But we want you to thrive too. So if you need help, please reach out. And lastly, if you're not already in our Facebook group, please join us. Our Facebook group is private to any parent raising a child with disabilities. We would love to see you there. Thanks again to Dr. Solone as always for showing us what's possible, to Donna and Iris in the chat, and especially to all of you for stopping by Undivided Live in an increasingly unpredictable world. We wish you a peaceful weekend, and I hope you can take five minutes to sneak off by yourself and do something just for you. Because you deserve it.