I’m going into my first IEP meeting with my sixth-grade son… without getting into his specific disability, do you have any general advice about effective goal-setting? I have some ideas about goals, but I’m not an expert. I want to contribute to the process and share my ideas, but I don’t want to overstep. Any words of wisdom would be much appreciated.
First of all, don’t worry about “overstepping” – this is your child, and as his parent you are a member of the IEP team who brings a singular and vitally important perspective to the table that no one else will have. Just as you respect the expertise and opinions of the other team members, they will respect yours.
Secondly, just a quick primer on IEP goals. The National Association of Special Education Teachers defines IEP goals as follows:
“Annual goals are statements that identify what knowledge, skills and/or behaviors a student is expected to be able to demonstrate within the period of time beginning with the time the IEP is implemented until the next scheduled review. Annual goals must be identified that meet the student s needs, as identified in the present levels of performance.
A goal is a measurable statement that describes what a child is reasonably expected to accomplish from the specialized educational program during the school year.”
This NASET article on “How to Determine Measure Annual Goals in an IEP” provides a helpful overview of the process and will help you prepare for your meeting and the implementation of your son’s IEP. That preparation will help you to participate in a meaningful dialogue regarding the goals for your son’s IEP and – and this will be critically important – how his progress toward those goals will be evaluated.
Make sure you understand the strategy for how his progress will be monitored and measured so that you have a sense of how to support that progress, and you will be in a position to ask questions and/or raise concerns as the year goes on. At the meeting, you can ask as many questions as you like, and you can take notes, too. Another member of the IEP team will take the “official” meeting notes that will summarize all of the topics discussed (including goals) and any decisions made, and the school will send you a copy.
IEP meetings are a wonderful opportunity to be part of a team of professionals that is focused on understanding your son’s educational needs and potential, and on putting together an individualized plan to support his growth and progress. Measurable goals are critically important to the process, and yours is an important voice in setting those goals.