How do I incorporate my child’s strengths and interests into her IEP?

It is important to document a strength- and interest-based learning approach in your child’s IEP. This will assist the whole team in using this approach and will lead to more continuity and success throughout the student’s academic career. Below are several suggestions.

  • Embed specific strategies into each particular goal (rather than listing the strategies on a separate page of the IEP document)
  • Include tenets from Universal Design with a variety of ways to receive and present information. 

Several examples of IEP goals that include specific strategies and Universal Design follow:

“Trevor will edit his writing for a project/topic of choice” using text-to-speech, spell check, and an editing checklist.”

“Using audio books, Natalie will answer inferential questions about novels that she selects from a pre-approved reading list.”

“Charity will complete equations with access to her calculator, manipulatives, and a list of formulas.”

“Chris will plan, compose, and edit a multimedia presentation about a unit in social studies that he selects using voice dictation software, visual organizers, and text-to-speech software.”

  • Criterion: You may request documentation of your child’s baseline data (i.e., what your child is currently able to do on goals and objectives) and then set an attainable goal from that benchmark. This does not have to be limited to a percentage. The criterion could be the level of independence (e.g., with maximal cues, moderate cues, minimal cues, or independently) for using a strategy or assistive technology It could also be WCPM (words correct per minute) to assess fluency. For writing goals, using a rating scale or rubric that pertains to the curriculum is often the most meaningful way to set a criterion and measure progress. 
  • Progress monitoring: This should be ongoing. For example, if your child’s goal is editing, she should edit a paragraph or two in every session with a special educator. The percentage of errors that she independently corrects should be graphed at the end of this session. Your child should calculate the percent and fill in the graph to be an active partner in her learning.

The interval of progress monitoring should be weekly or at least monthly. If the intervals are longer than this, it is difficult for you, your child, and the staff to know if the strategies and intervention are effective or not.

  • Include at least one goal that is meta-cognitive (your child’s ability to think about his thinking) to make your child take an active role in her intervention. This also leads to better carryover of strategies. Examples of meta-cognitive goals are below:

“Matt will demonstrate at least three strategies he utilizes for note-taking.”

“Mia will accurately rate her reading fluency (and compare it to the teacher’s rating) on a Multi-dimensional Fluency Scale.”

“Steven will independently use assistive technology to draft a report.”

“Leah will use a mnemonic strategy to memorize facts in Biology.”

Investing in your child’s strengths and interests will pay huge dividends. Not only will you bolster your child’s self-esteem and confidence with learning, you will undoubtedly build your relationship with her. Your opinion matters a great deal to your child, and if you find areas to praise, your child will have greater resilience, fortitude, and aspirations for the future.