The Importance of S.M.A.R.T IEP Goals
As parents of special needs kids, it is our responsibility to help guide, direct and advocate for our children’s education. I happen to live in a school district where I find this to be a relatively easy task. Not all parents here agree with me, so it’s up to us, as our child’s best advocate, to ensure that our children are getting what they need and deserve from the school system. That’s where the IEP (Individualized Education Plan) comes in.
IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) 2004 wants to ensure that children with disabilities have “access to the general education curriculum in the regular classroom, to the maximum extent possible, in order to-
20 U.S.C Sec. 1400 (c) (5) (a) (i) Meet developmental goals, and to the maximum extent possible, the challenging expectations that have been established for all children; and (ii) be prepared to lead productive and independent adult lives, to the maximum extent possible.”
It is with this mandate that we, as parents, must become as knowledgeable as we can to ensure that the schools, with their often limited resources, provide our children with all that they need to fulfill the IDEA mandate. It’s not easy to write goals as a lay person. Many times the teachers write the goals for our children and we, deferring to the professional, accept them without question. It is our responsibility to educate ourselves and participate as a vital member of the educational team. We must go to our children’s IEP meetings armed with knowledge and information about our child’s needs. We need to read the teachers’ goals and make sure that they fit our child based on our, as well as the educators’, knowledge of his needs.
I was fortunate to attend a seminar last year presented by Pete Wright, Esq., co-founder, with his wife Pam, of www.WrightsLaw.com. Pete is an attorney and Pam is a psychotherapist, author and editor of “The Special Ed Advocate” newsletter which I receive on a regular basis. This is a website that is a must read for any special needs parents looking for information about special education law and the information that follows comes directly from Pete and Pam’s book “From Emotions to Advocacy: 2nd Edition,” published by Harbor House Law Press, Inc. in Hartfield, VA, copyright 2006. Page numbers will be included after each item. My focus for this article is on writing SMART IEP goals.
“SMART” isn’t just a cute way of talking about goals. It is an acronym that stands for:
A use Action words
R Realistic and relevant