IEP social goals
Jason is a fifth grader with a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome who has difficulty in the area of social communication and expressive language. He is making academic progress; however, his parents are concerned that he does not have a friend, spends a great deal of time in isolation, and is appearing more depressed every year. He enjoys the company of familiar adults but when he meets a new person he looks down and refuses to speak. The speech pathologist is considering dismissing him from services because he has met the goals developed for him in a highly structured one-on-one setting.
Unfortunately, this scenario is a familiar one in school settings. When deciding what social and communication goals student needs, it is important to remember that in the workforce employees often lose their jobs not because they cannot do the work but because they lack the appropriate social skills. This stark reality points to the importance of social skills acquisition across environments, especially for our children for whom these skills present a particular challenge.
The skills must initially be taught in a structured setting with numerous opportunities for practice. After the skill is mastered in a structured setting, the skills must be generalized across environments as quickly as possible. This will require pull-out as well as inclusive service deliveries.
Following is a sample plan for implementing social skills goals across environments.
Jason’s Communication Plan
Jason will improve his social communication and expressive language skills by:
• Spontaneously greeting peers and adults (Jason will establish and maintain eye contact and say, “hi” to a variety of peers and adults across at least three different environments without prompts).
• Introducing himself to unfamiliar adults and peers by establishing and maintaining eye contact and saying, “Hi, my name is Jason.”
• Maintaining a conversation with a peer for a minimum of three conversational turns in structured and unstructured opportunities
To address and expand on this goal
• Generate a list of questions Jason can ask a peer (e.g. “What do you like to do? Where do you go to school? Do you like sports? What TV shows do you like?”)
• Script what Jason should say (consider using a Social StoryTM, cartooning, or a written script).
• Practice listening to Jason’s response and then respond with an appropriate/related response
• Have Jason role play and practice with peers in a structured setting and then generalize it to other settings (arrival at school in the morning, during unstructured time in his classroom, greeting peers in the lunch room or at recess, etc.).
• Teach the difference in and appropriate times for introductions or greetings.
• Teach a variety of types of greetings and practice what type of greeting is appropriate in what setting and with whom. In an inclusive setting (classrooms, lunch, recess, play group, etc.)
• Spontaneously initiating conversation with peers, demonstrating appropriate attention getting strategies, eye contact, and body positioning. He will also wait and listen to the student’s response and provide a relevant comment/question.
• Responding to questions by providing a relevant and direct answer when asked an open-ended question in structured and unstructured settings with at least three different adults and peers (e.g. “What did you do last night?” “How was your trip?”).
Remember what is taught in isolation stays in isolation. It is only through generalizing skills into more natural environments that students on the autism spectrum will learn to blend in society and ultimately be socially successful in life.
Elisa Gagnon has over 15 years’ experience working with children and youth with autism and Asperger Syndrome in the public schools, Elisa is the author of This Is Asperger Syndrome (with Brenda Myles) and, Power Cards: Using Special Interests to Motivate Children and Youth with Asperger Syndrome and Autism