So, I’ll just address this right from the get-go. The title says “IEP goals for low functioning students.” I said it–low functioning. Yes, I used to have another article on the site detailing my opinion as to why we shouldn’t use functioning labels to describe disabled students, high functioning or low functioning.

Like many issues that have happened in the 14 years of this blog, I had an opinion, then listened to some other opinions and changed my opinion. Sometimes, time passes and I hear more about it, and I circle back again.

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We do a lot of lacing activities to increase fine motor skills. The light table helps with his vision and interest.

That’s where I’m at, as far as describing a student as low functioning. For the record, the only student I describe this way is my own son. And, of course, clients who hire me as their advocate and tell me that this is their same thought. If it’s not, I respect that.

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If we’re going to hold the position, as many disability advocates do, that when you hide words like “disability” and “autism,” that inherently makes them bad or negative words, I’d say the same applies to low functioning students.

It’s who he is. My son has very few skills and will never be independent. He’s an adult and requires full hands-on caregiving daily. Why should he be denied the ability to be described accurately?

Because here’s thing: When you deny someone the ability to be accurately described, a lack of supports and services can’t be far behind.

We need to embrace all levels of functioning and let families decide what works best for them. In my opinion, we need to focus on the following:

  • Allow people to describe themselves as they/families see fit.
  • Focus on accurately assessing all students to determine abilities; and meeting the needs of all students.
  • Be more alert to personal biases, such as always assuming that a student with Down Syndrome is always low-functioning. Conversely, assuming that all verbal autistic students are high-functioning, when that often isn’t the case.

I believe if we focused on the above, people really wouldn’t care boo about labels. Ok, off the soap box for now anyway.

Related: This is a good watch: Chasing the Intact Mind

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Understanding Low Functioning Special Education Students

The reality is, in special education, there’s a diverse spectrum of needs and abilities among students. Among them are those students considered low functioning.

These students often require more intensive support and personalized education plans to meet their unique needs.

But who exactly is considered a low functioning special education student, who evaluates their skills, and what are some examples of Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals and objectives tailored to their needs?

That’s up to the IEP team to decide. IEP teams get things wrong, all the time. That doesn’t mean we throw out what is working for one child, because another team got it wrong.

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The book is of high interest to him, to help with focus and attention. It’s a pop-up book to help with fine motor.

Who is Considered a Low Functioning Special Education Student?

The term “low functioning” in special education refers to individuals who face significant challenges in various areas of development, such as cognitive, adaptive, communication, and social skills.

These challenges often result in difficulties in performing daily activities and navigating social situations independently. Low functioning students may have diagnoses such as intellectual disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, or multiple disabilities.

It’s essential to recognize that functioning levels can vary widely among individuals, and each student has their own unique strengths and weaknesses.

While some low functioning students may require constant supervision and support for basic tasks like personal hygiene or communication, others may have more advanced abilities in certain areas but struggle significantly in others.

More often than not, low-functioning usually means intellectual disability.

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Who Evaluates a Child for Low Functioning Skills?

Assessing a child’s functioning level is a complex process that involves input from various professionals, including educators, psychologists, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, and sometimes medical specialists.

These evaluations typically include observations, standardized assessments, interviews with caregivers, and reviews of medical and educational records.

In the school setting, it is usually a school psychologist, OT, PT and sometimes other teachers and professionals.

Teachers play a crucial role in observing and documenting a student’s academic, social, and behavioral functioning within the school setting. Psychologists may conduct cognitive assessments to determine intellectual functioning, while speech-language pathologists assess communication skills.

Occupational therapists evaluate fine and gross motor skills, sensory processing, and activities of daily living.

The evaluation process aims to identify a student’s strengths and areas of need comprehensively. This information guides the development of an individualized education plan tailored to the student’s specific requirements.

If you disagree with your child’s evaluations, read up on IEEs-Independent Education Evaluations and decide if that is the course of action you want to take. There’s more information in that link.

List of 20 IEP Goals and Objectives for Low Functioning Students

Creating meaningful and achievable IEP goals and objectives is essential for supporting the development and progress of low functioning students.

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You definitely want to visit my IEP Goal Bank, which has 1000s of IEP goal ideas separated by domain.

But, the list below will give you a starting point.

Here’s a list of 20 goals and objectives across various domains:

  1. Communication Skills:
    • Goal: Improve expressive language skills.
    • Objective: The student will use a communication device or picture exchange system to express basic needs within structured activities with 80% accuracy.
  2. Social Skills:
    • Goal: Increase social interaction with peers.
    • Objective: The student will participate in group activities (e.g., games, circle time) for at least 10 minutes with minimal prompting, twice a week.
  3. Self-Care Skills:
    • Goal: Foster independence in personal hygiene routines.
    • Objective: The student will independently brush teeth, wash hands, and comb hair with verbal cues and visual supports, achieving 70% accuracy over three consecutive weeks.
  4. Fine Motor Skills:
    • Goal: Develop fine motor control for writing or activities of daily living.
    • Sample Objective: The student will trace simple shapes and letters independently, demonstrating improved control and accuracy over time.
  5. Gross Motor Skills:
    • Goal: Improve balance and coordination.
    • Objective: The student will participate in gross motor activities (e.g., jumping, balancing on one foot) for at least 15 minutes during physical education class, with occasional support as needed.
  6. Academic Skills:
    • Goal: Enhance basic math skills.
    • Objective: The student will demonstrate the ability to count objects up to 20 and perform simple addition and subtraction with manipulatives, achieving 80% accuracy on assessments.
  7. Functional Literacy:
    • Goal: Increase recognition of sight words.
    • Objective: The student will identify and read a set of 20 sight words from a list with 90% accuracy in daily reading activities.
  8. Emotional Regulation:
    • Goal: Develop coping strategies for managing frustration.
    • Objective: The student will use a visual calm-down kit or relaxation techniques (e.g., deep breathing) to self-regulate emotions when upset, reducing disruptive behaviors in the classroom.
  9. Following Directions:
    • Goal: Improve auditory processing skills.
    • Objective: The student will follow two-step verbal instructions in classroom routines and activities with increasing independence, achieving 70% accuracy over time.
  10. Task Completion:
    • Goal: Increase attention span and task persistence.
    • Objective: The student will complete simple tasks or assignments within a specified timeframe (e.g., cleaning up toys, completing a worksheet) with decreasing prompts and redirection.
  11. Transition Skills:
    • Goal: Facilitate smooth transitions between activities.
    • Objective: The student will transition between classroom activities (e.g., from circle time to center-based learning) with minimal disruptions, following visual or verbal cues from the teacher.
  12. Play Skills:
    • Goal: Encourage interactive play with peers.
    • Objective: The student will engage in turn-taking and cooperative play during structured playtime or recess, initiating interactions with peers or responding to their initiations.
  13. Sensory Integration:
    • Goal: Improve sensory processing abilities.
    • Objective: The student will participate in sensory diet activities (e.g., swinging, deep pressure activities) to regulate sensory input and promote attention and engagement in classroom tasks.
  14. Adaptive Behavior:
    • Goal: Foster independence in daily living skills.
    • Objective: The student will demonstrate the ability to complete self-help tasks, such as dressing, feeding, and using the restroom, with increasing independence and reduced prompting.
  15. Community Participation:
    • Goal: Increase comfort in community settings.
    • Objective: The student will participate in community outings (e.g., grocery shopping, visits to the library) with appropriate behavior and communication, following safety rules and social norms.
  16. Vocational Skills:
    • Goal: Develop basic job-related skills.
    • Objective: The student will practice simple vocational tasks (e.g., sorting items, assembling materials) in a simulated work environment, demonstrating attention to task and following directions from a supervisor.
  17. Technology Use:
    • Goal: Improve proficiency with assistive technology devices.
    • Objective: The student will navigate educational software or communication apps on a tablet or computer with increasing independence, using touch or switch access as appropriate.
  18. Self-Advocacy:
    • Goal: Encourage self-expression of needs and preferences.
    • Objective: The student will use visual supports or communication aids to initiate requests, express preferences, and advocate for personal choices in various settings (e.g., school, home, community).
  19. Safety Skills:
    • Goal: Increase awareness of safety hazards and rules.
    • Objective: The student will demonstrate understanding of safety rules (e.g., looking both ways before crossing the street, using pedestrian signals) and apply them in real-world situations with adult supervision.
  20. Transition Planning:
    • Goal: Prepare for post-school transition to adulthood.
    • Objective: The student will participate in transition planning meetings, exploring interests, strengths, and support needs to develop a transition plan outlining goals and services for post-secondary education, employment, and independent living.

Each of these goals and objectives is designed to address specific areas of need and promote the holistic development of low functioning special education

Autism and Sensory IEP Goals

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