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Thursday 19 November 2015

Inside the HELP Part 2: Writing IEP Goals

Hi Everyone!  I am today's guest blogger for We Teach SPED and I thought I would share some information on writing IEP goals based on the Hawaii Early Learning Profile or HELP curriculum.  I wrote about the HELP curriculum a while back, but you can refresh your memory by reading this post.

Selecting IEP Goals
After working with several teachers on writing IEP goals and developing students’ academic programs, it became evident that the HELP© assessment is not being utilized as it was designed to be.  
Teachers are using the HELP© curriculum to choose IEP goals, however, they are not basing those goals on the student’s scores on the assessment.  In recent IEP meetings with teachers, the student’s HELP© Charts and Strands booklets were absent and this is a big mistake.

As a result, students are being taught skills that are either already mastered, or are too difficult for them.   Students are then seen as engaging in inappropriate or off-task behaviour because they are bored, or frustrated.  Therefore, it is important to follow these steps when selecting IEP goals.

Student Needs + Realistic and Obtainable Goals = Progress

Step 1:  Choose goals that are developmentally appropriate

Once the HELP assessment has been completed, the school team meets to select IEP goals.  Using the Strands booklet is the most effective way to choose IEP goals that are developmentally appropriate for the student.  
The Strands booklet contains developmentally sequenced items within each Strand that focus upon a specific underlying key concept.  The skills are also laid out in a hierarchical manner; one skill leads to or builds the foundation for the next skill.
Therefore, using the Strands booklet makes it easy to ensure that you are selecting IEP goals that are at the right level for the student.  Based on the student’s assessment scores, you can simply select the goal that follows the student’s last success within each strand.
For example, let’s say that within the Math Readiness strand you have been teaching a student to tell time, using goal number 1.274:  Read hour and half-hour time.  The student has mastered this skill and you are wondering where to go next.  
By referring to the stands booklet, you will easily find that the next goal for telling time is 1.275:  Matches time with daily activities.  Once a student has mastered this goal, the next goal in the strands booklet is 1.278:  Reads numerals on a clock face and associates time with routine activity.
As you can see, the teaching sequence is laid out for you, eliminating the guess work and ensuring a developmentally appropriate sequence for teaching skills. 

Step 2:  Translating HELP goals into well-written IEP goals

Once you have selected your developmentally appropriate goal for your student, it is time to translate that goal into an IEP goal.
Well written IEP goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound.  Using the HELP© strands booklet will help you to choose attainable and relevant IEP goals, but how you write your IEP goals will determine if they are specific, measurable and time-bound.
When translating the HELP© goals into well-written IEP goals, it is important to consult the HELP© manual.  Each goal in the HELP© manual has a definition.  These definitions will assist you in ensuring that you have written specific IEP goals.
Let’s review the definition provided for goal number 1.274:  Reads hour and half-hour time.  The HELP© definition for this goal is,”The child will identify the hour and half-hours on a conventional clock (hour and minute hands).  The child will specify the hour and half-hours by reading the clock, relating the hour or half-hour by activities or by setting a conventional clock to the hour or half-hour when requested.”
This definition provides you with a specific description for teaching, however, it is lacking the elements of measure and being time-bound.  A well-written IEP goal includes a way of measuring progress and outlines a time frame in which the goal should be mastered.
Determining how you will measure progress is an imperative part of writing IEP goals.  If you do not have a plan for tracking and measuring progress for each skill, then you might as well not have an IEP.
The most accurate tool of measurement for IEP goals is data collection.  Collecting data on each skill, each time the student demonstrates the skill or is taught the skill, provides objective and accurate information about the student’s progress.
Data collection eliminates any discrepancies there may be between staff on student performance and provides written information to review when determining if a skill is mastered.  Including the use of data collection in IEPs  for students with developmental disabilities, ensures that your IEP goals are measurable.
When considering the time frame and method of measuring progress for IEP goals, consider the components for mastery and generalization commonly used in ABA-based (Applied Behaviour Analysis) teaching.  A general rule of thumb for mastery and generalization is the ability of the student to demonstrate the skill across materials, people, settings and time.
If you consider these components when writing your IEP goals, it will help you to determine the appropriate amount of time it will take the student to master the skill.  For students with developmental disabilities, mastering skills will take days or weeks to master.
So, what does a well-written IEP goal look like?  Let’s refer back to goal Using the HELP© manual as a guide, this is an example of how an IEP goal may be written for this skill.
“Max will specify the time on analog and digital clocks according to the hour and half-hour by reading the clock and setting analog and digital clocks to the specified time upon request, 4 out of 5 times over three days (with a minimum of thirty trials) in a variety of settings.”
This IEP goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.  For more examples of how to translate HELP© goals to IEP goals, refer to my resource document, “Linking the HELP© to the Ontario Full Day Early Learning Kindergarten Program”.  You can access this document by requesting it through email:  nicole.leger@sccdsb.net.

Step 3:  Designing a plan for teaching

By using the strands booklet, you can quickly and easily lay out a plan for teaching based on developmentally sequenced goals for teachers and EAs to follow.  Using the stands booklet to design a sequence for teaching will save you time when writing your lesson or teaching plans.  The educational team will know what the end goal is and the sequence of teaching.
This method of teaching allows you to design lesson plans that begin at the student’s current level of developmental functioning and eliminates some of the frustration students experience when they are being taught skills that are too difficult for them.  When everyone knows what the end goal is for a skill and the appropriate sequence of teaching, the student will experience more success and growth in their learning.
For each goal in the developmental sequence, it is important to consult the HELP© manual for ideas on how to assess and teach the selected goal.  Within each goal description in the manual, there is a section called, “Adaptations”.  This section is particularly important to review when using the HELP© to teach students with developmental disabilities.  
This section will discuss prerequisites that you may not have considered when selecting a goal for teaching and provide ideas on how to teach and reinforce the skill being taught in natural settings throughout the day. 

Who do you write IEP goals?  Do you have a specific formula that you use?  I'd love to hear from you!  Comment below or send me an email!  Thanks for stopping by and don't forget to come back on December 3rd when I will be posting the third part in this series on data collection.

Until then,

Parks-Warshaw, S.  (1992-2007). HELP Strands.  Vort Corporation, P.O. Box 60132, Palo Alto, CA 94306
HELP, Hawaii Early Learning Profile, & VORT are registered trademarks of VORT Corporation. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2005-2014 VORT Corporation


  1. Amazing post dear! You have a wonderful blog:)
    What about following each other on Instagram, bloglovin, Twitter?.. :)


  2. I found this article on writing IEP goals incredibly insightful and helpful. Crafting individualized education plans is essential, and having Assignment Help from a service like "Do my assignment" can further support students in achieving these goals. Collaboration between educators, parents, and such services is key to fostering student success.


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