By Amy Vickrey, MSE

The first post in this series on writing an IEP covered the things you should do before you start. Once you have followed the four steps she outlines, you are ready to consider what goals and objectives you want to focus on for your child. For some children, these goals will be the main focus of an entire subject or area of weakness with other topics in that area playing a more minor role. For others, these goals will be the whole focus for that entire year. 

Let’s start by looking deeper into what the difference is between a goal and an objective.

A goal is the intended outcome of what you want to achieve for each area of weakness. Ideally, you want 3-5 goals focusing on the most important areas or the areas of greatest need. The best goals follow the SMART goal formula:

SMART IEP goals are
Use Action words

Objectives are the steps you take to reach your goal. They take the big goal and break it down by time or by skill.

Let’s look at an example:

Handwriting goal: John will write his name, with correctly formed letters, in the correct order, 3 times over a week.

Objective 1: John will use playdoh, art materials, and manipulatives to create the individual letters to spell his name, using a visual prompt, 3 times over a week.

Objective 2: John will write the individual letters, J, O, H, and N using correct form, 3 times over the week.

Objective 3: John will use playdoh, art materials, and manipulatives to create the letters to spell his name correctly, using a visual prompt, 3 times over a week.

You can see how these objectives build on each other, so that by the time John completes the last objective, he is ready for the final goal of writing his name correctly.

Objectives or Not?
Whether to include objectives is really dependent on personal preference and the individual goal. It can help provide focus and direction on the steps and skills leading up to a goal. Goals can be used for any academic or life skill area (like learning a math or toilet training). 

Now that you know how to write goals, you should be able to have a more focused and purposeful school day. The next article in this series will focus on helping you track progress so you know when to change the goal or make a new one. 

More Resources
Check out our  IEP Pinterest board or these links for more ideas:

Setting Annual IEP Goals:  What You Need to Know 
IEP Goal and Objective Bank
IEP Goals and Objectives – 1000s to Choose From
Creating SMART IEP Goals and Objectives


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