Disabled students often encounter unique challenges that need individualized support. When that support is not received, you may encounter school avoidance or school refusal. As a result, you may find the IEP team adding Attendance Goals to your IEP.

Attendance IEP goals are worth considering. However, I find that many IEP teams are putting the cart before the horse. What I mean is that you’re wasting everyone’s time and putting an unachievable goal on an IEP if the team does not address the underlying issues that are causing the attendance problems.

An empty classroom with chairs and a chalkboard, where students work towards meeting their IEP goals.

Having an idealistic goal for a child to improve their school attendance is not reason enough to improve attendance rates. That said, many teams won’t add supports to an IEP unless it ties to a specific goal. In that case, having the goal may enable the child to receive the support they need.

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Whether you’re a parent, educator, or school administrator, this article aims to provide valuable insights and practical guidance on integrating attendance goals into the IEP process and encouraging a positive environment that promotes regular attendance for students with disabilities.

Also read:

A sign at a crosswalk depicting a man and a woman crossing the street, promotes safety and encourages attendance while demonstrating IEP goals for community integration.

Can You Have An Attendance Goal on An IEP?

Of course! The main pillar of IEPs is individualization. If it’s appropriate to add it, an attendance goal should be added.

Also, if you are dealing with truancy issues, an IEP goal for attendance will demonstrate to the truancy court that you are actively trying to fix the problem.

While the primary focus of an IEP typically revolves around academic and functional goals related to a student’s disability, attendance can be addressed within the IEP if it directly impacts the student’s educational requirements. 

For instance, if a student’s disability hinders regular school attendance, and improved attendance is crucial for progress in academic and functional goals, the IEP may include specific attendance-related objectives. Some ways that a disability may affect attendance are:

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  • anxiety
  • sensory issues–sensory overload, too long of a day, too much of a sustained sensory experience
  • processing issues–too much processing, just “too much work” cognitively for a child to endure the day
  • bullying
  • feeling of failure; feels like everyone around them is learning or can do the things, and they cannot
  • RSD or rejection sensitivity dysphoria; often connected with ADHD and anxiety; can cause issues that will make a child dread school

Attendance goals within an IEP may be formulated to align with the student’s overall educational needs, incorporating strategies and accommodations to facilitate regular school attendance and active participation in educational activities.

They are usually considered when chronic absenteeism significantly interferes with the student’s educational advancement and when there is a clear connection between the disability and attendance challenges. Chronic absenteeism may lead to truancy charges for the parent.

If you harbor specific concerns regarding attendance and your child’s IEP, it is advisable to collaborate closely with the school’s special education team, which includes the IEP team.

A silhouette of a person standing in a hallway, reflecting on their attendance and progress towards their IEP goals.

What Are IEP Goals for Attendance?

IEP goals for attendance are developed when a student’s ability to attend school regularly is impacted by their disability, and improved attendance is crucial for them to make progress in their academic and functional goals. 

These goals are tailored to address the specific challenges related to attendance that arise from the student’s disability. Some of the IEP attendance goals focus on the team or the parent.

This is a new(ish) concept in goal-setting that is habit-based. Yes, it can be difficult to get an IEP team on board with this concept. But, I firmly believe this will change as time passes, as habits based goal setting is much more effective and successful than results based goals. Read “Atomic Habits” or some of the other habits based stuff out there for more information.

Here are examples of IEP goals for attendance. Remember to insert the action into the IEP goal formula below to make it measurable.

  • Increase in Overall Attendance: The student will increase overall attendance from the current percentage to the desired percentage by the end of the IEP period.
  • Reduced Tardiness: The student will reduce tardiness from the current frequency to the desired frequency over a specific time period as measured by school attendance records.
  • Improved Transition to School: The student will demonstrate improved readiness for school in the morning routine, arriving at school by a specific time without assistance in a specified percentage of observed instances.
  • Implementation of Attendance Strategies: The student will consistently utilize attendance strategies and accommodations to enhance regular school attendance.
  • Parent/Guardian Involvement: The parent/guardian will actively support [student’s name] in achieving regular attendance by reinforcing the importance of attendance and assisting with morning routines.
  • Decreased Absences During Critical Times: The student will reduce absences during critical academic periods, such as test days or project due dates, from the current frequency to the desired frequency.
  • Attendance Support Team Meetings: The IEP team will conduct regular meetings to assess the student’s attendance progress and make necessary adjustments to strategies and interventions.
  • Improved Transportation Coordination: The school will coordinate transportation services to address barriers affecting the student’s attendance, ensuring reliable and timely transportation to and from school.
attendance IEP goals

School Attendance Issues

If attendance issues are related to behavior, conduct an FBA and develop a BIP to address specific behaviors hindering regular attendance.

These goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART)

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The development of attendance goals should involve collaboration between the IEP team, including parents or guardians, teachers, and other relevant professionals, to ensure that the goals address the unique needs of the student.

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What Is A Good Attendance Record?

A good attendance record typically reflects regular and consistent attendance with minimal absences and tardiness. 

The specific criteria for what constitutes a “good” attendance record can vary depending on the context, such as school policies, workplace expectations, or individual circumstances. 

Here are some general guidelines for assessing a good attendance record:

  • Regular Attendance: Regular attendance implies consistent attendance on scheduled days without frequent absences.
  • Few Absences: A good attendance record generally involves having few absences over a specific period, such as a school semester or work year.
  • Minimal Tardiness: Being punctual and arriving on time is an essential aspect of a good attendance record. Minimizing tardiness reflects a commitment to timely attendance.
  • Consistent Engagement: It’s not just about physically being present; a good attendance record also includes active engagement and participation during the scheduled time.
  • Adherence to Policies: Following attendance policies set by the institution, school, or workplace is crucial. This may include notifying authorities in advance if an absence is unavoidable.
  • Meeting or Exceeding Expectations: Meeting or exceeding the attendance expectations set by the school is a key indicator of a good attendance record. Read your school district’s policy on attendance.
  • Completion of Responsibilities: Having a good attendance record often involves completing assigned tasks and responsibilities within the scheduled hours. Talk with your team about staying focused on what your child needs to do, as far as the essentials, to successfully progress.
  • Positive Impact on Performance: Maintaining a strong attendance record is often associated with favorable results, such as academic success for students.

It’s crucial to recognize that the definition of a good attendance record can differ depending on the setting. 

Schools may enforce specific attendance policies, while employers might establish their own criteria for evaluating attendance.

Additionally, individual circumstances, such as health issues or family emergencies, can influence how attendance is evaluated.

In an educational setting, a typical benchmark for good attendance might be missing fewer than 5-10% of school days in a given academic year. 

Ultimately, a good attendance record aligns with the expectations and requirements of the specific environment while considering individual circumstances and any necessary accommodations.

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How Can You Improve Attendance Performance?

Improving attendance performance can involve a combination of strategies and interventions at various levels, including individual, family, and institutional. 

Accommodations for School Attendance

Here are some potential IEP accommodations for addressing attendance issues:

  • Flexible Scheduling:
    • Allow for a flexible schedule that accommodates the student’s attendance challenges, such as modified start or end times.
  • Attendance Contracts:
    • Develop an attendance contract outlining specific attendance expectations, consequences, and rewards to motivate the student.
  • Modified Workload:
    • Adjust the amount of work assigned to the student, especially during periods when attendance is a challenge.
  • Alternative Learning Environments:
    • Provide opportunities for the student to participate in alternative learning environments, such as online courses or home-based instruction, when attendance is difficult.
  • Use of Technology:
    • Implement technology tools for remote participation in class discussions, video conferencing, or accessing course materials online.
  • Attendance Monitoring:
    • Establish a system for monitoring attendance and communicating regularly with parents or guardians to address any issues promptly.
  • Behavioral Supports:
    • Implement a positive behavior support plan to reinforce attendance-related behaviors and address any underlying issues contributing to attendance challenges.
  • Counseling Services:
    • Offer access to counseling services, either within the school or through external resources, to address emotional or behavioral factors impacting attendance.
  • Transportation Assistance:
    • Explore options for providing transportation assistance if attendance issues are related to transportation barriers.
  • Social Skills Training:
    • Provide social skills training to address any social or interpersonal challenges that may be contributing to attendance difficulties.
  • Peer Support:
    • Facilitate the involvement of a peer mentor or buddy who can provide support and encouragement for attendance.
  • Home-School Communication Plan:
    • Develop a communication plan between the school and the student’s family to address attendance concerns collaboratively.
  • Modified Grading:
    • Adjust grading criteria if necessary, taking into consideration the challenges the student faces related to attendance.
  • Extended Time for Assignments:
    • Allow for extended time on assignments to accommodate the student’s irregular attendance.
  • Individualized Instruction:
    • Offer individualized instruction or tutoring to help the student catch up on missed content.

It’s crucial to involve the student, their parents or guardians, teachers, and any relevant specialists in developing and implementing these accommodations. Regular reviews and adjustments to the IEP may be necessary to address changing needs and circumstances.

Additionally, collaborating with a school’s attendance team or specialists can provide additional insights and support in developing effective strategies.

Other Attendance Ideas

Here are some general suggestions:

  • Set Clear Expectations: Clearly communicate the importance of regular attendance and set expectations for punctuality.
  • Provide Incentives: Consider implementing a reward system for consistent attendance to motivate individuals.
  • Offer Support Services: Identify and address any individual challenges that may be delaying attendance, such as health issues, transportation issues, or social-emotional concerns.
  • Build Relationships: Promote positive relationships between individuals and their peers, teachers, or colleagues, creating a supportive environment.
  • Personalize Learning: Tailor educational or work experiences to the individual’s interests and needs to increase engagement.

For Families:

  • Parental Engagement: Involve parents or guardians in the process, keeping them informed about attendance expectations and collaborating on solutions.
  • Family Support Services: Provide resources or referrals to support services that can address family-specific challenges affecting attendance.
  • Education on Importance: Educate families about the long-term benefits of consistent attendance on academic success and future opportunities.

For Institutions (Schools or Employers):

  • Attendance Policies:  Clearly outline attendance policies and expectations, ensuring they are known and understood by all stakeholders.
  • Early Intervention: Implement early intervention strategies, such as identifying and addressing attendance issues at the onset to prevent escalation.
  • Flexible Scheduling: Consider flexible scheduling options to accommodate individual needs, such as staggered start times or telecommuting for employees.
  • Positive School or Work Culture: Nurture a positive and inclusive school or work culture that encourages attendance through a sense of belonging.
  • Monitoring and Reporting: Regularly monitor attendance and provide feedback to individuals, families, or employees. Use data to identify trends and areas for improvement.
  • Supportive Interventions: Offer targeted interventions, such as counseling, mentoring, or tutoring, for individuals experiencing chronic attendance issues.
  • Community Partnerships: Collaborate with community organizations to provide additional resources and support for individuals and families facing attendance challenges.
  • Technology Solutions: Use technology to streamline attendance tracking, provide notifications, and facilitate communication between schools, employers, and families.

Remember, the key to improving attendance performance is a comprehensive approach that addresses the unique needs of individuals while considering the broader institutional and family contexts.

By providing tangible examples of SMART goals aligned with overall educational objectives, we empower parents, educators, and administrators to create environments conducive to regular attendance and active participation.

Acknowledging the contextual variability of a “good attendance record,” we offer general guidelines for various settings. 

This article aims to guide parents, educators, and administrators in integrating attendance goals into the IEP process. 

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Social Emotional IEP Goals

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