What Does a Developmental IEP Look Like?

Individual Education Plans (IEPs) usually focus on behaviour – what we want kids to be able to do.  In order to know what a child has learned, they have to list goals that are specific and measurable.  A Developmental perspective, on the other hand, thinks about how a child relates to others, and how they think.  Developmental goals tend to be long-term and hard to measure.  So what might an IEP with developmental goals look like?

The following is one possibility.  It’s a real IEP for a real student, written in a process over several years with the input of teachers, resource teachers, parents, and clinicians. It is posted here with the permission of her parents, and a name change to protect her identity.  The teachers have had a background in universal design for learning, and contributing clinicians have worked with both DIR/Floortime and RDI.  The school and home team have been learning about social emotional development and collaborative planning for the past two years.

The goals that run through the plan have to do with interaction and with perspective-taking.  These are goals that run for multiple years for the student, and are drawn from the stages of development and communication described in both RDI and Hanen’s Talkability.

The goals are general – they are about emotional growth and thinking rather than specific behaviors, for the most part.They are also interrelated – it’s difficult to categorize them without repeating ideas, but the categories work to create specific achievements to measure.

Many of these goals were easily changed into whole-class objectives: for example, working through problems or using appropriate etiquette are things many elementary school students can learn to do better.

It’s important to remember that this is an example only. The goals discussed are very specific to this student’s educational and developmental profile and to one point in time of her development.  For more examples of IEP goals based on developmental stages, please visit this page on Educational Interventions at the ICDL website.  Jennifer Katz’s book Resource Teachers also has suggestions for strength-based IEPs.

How can I influence our school team to take a developmental focus on our IEP?

Educate yourself first. Be clear about what your child needs to learn next, and how to work on this goal. The best way to do this is to work with a developmental practitioner.

Be very clear with your school team that you would like your child’s program and IEP to take a developmental focus. You have a say in your child’s education, please don’t be afraid to advocate.

Offer your child’s school the opportunity to learn more about developmental approaches. Ask your practitioner about the best way to do this. Education can be offered on an individual basis, or by suggesting the school team attend a group learning opportunity like the ones offered by Rehabilitation Centre for Children called Taking a Developmental Approach to Children with ASD.

Individual Education Plan

Brief History/Background Info

Molly was diagnosed with ASD at the age of 2.  At that time her communication and social interaction were severely affected.

She is now fully included in all the learning activities of the classroom and is working at grade level, but does require more processing time in class than others.  She also benefits from one-on-one support to get started on tasks and to follow through as well as to help her show what she knows.  She does well with routines and follows them.

Student’s Strengths/Preferences/Learning Styles/ Interests

  • Good memory and likes to follow routines
  • Imaginative, enjoys drama
  • IPad apps and using computer programs to express ideas
  • Likes writing stories, drawing, photography
  • Loves praise and knowing she has succeeded
  • Visual learner
  • Friendly, helpful, enjoys her peers and friendships
  • Likes to have choices
  • TV shows: Splash ‘N Boots, Super Why, Brainpop Jr., Peppa Pig

Areas of Need:

  • Expressive language/communication
  • Needs processing time
  • Social Skills: perspective taking, noticing emotional shifts of others
  • Will need alternate methods of showing what she knows
  • Needs breaks for water etc when overwhelmed
  • Sensory needs: loud sounds

In terms of social and emotional development, the therapy goals she is working on are as follows:

  • Enjoying and accepting her partner’s contributions to a collaboration (in real time)
  • Contributing to her partner’s and/or creating a three part story arc: situation – problem (shift) – resolution (shift)
  • Understanding that we don’t share the same physical perspective, and increase understanding that everyone has different likes and dislikes
  • Reading and using emotional shifts
  • Correct pronoun use
  • Asking for a break when overwhelmed

Some of the goals from this program will be incorporated at school as we would like to see her increase her social interactions and successfully navigate her social world at school.

I. Domain: Social/Emotional

Skill: Recognizing emotional shifts and perspectives of others and responding to them.

September Level of Performance: Molly wants others to comment or notice her emotional shifts and perspective but she does not necessarily reciprocate.

Skill: Problem Solving

September Level of Performance: Molly has trouble knowing how to verbalize and solve a problem, especially if she is worried about something.

II. Domain:  Communication

Skill: Recognizing a shift in her own emotions.

Current Level of Performance: Molly is beginning to express needs for a break without being prompted.

Skill: Communicating what she knows (academic).

Current Level of Performance: Molly can express her understanding of concrete concepts but has difficulty expressing understanding of abstract concepts.

Skill: Email Etiquette

September Level of Performance: Molly enjoys sending emails to family members, teachers and classmates.  Often these emails consist of a copying and pasting of material from a favorite website.


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