Functional Goals for IEP and life

Luz Adriana

March 10, 2016


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kitchen_clock_time_265001_l“How did it get so late so soon?”  ― Dr. Seuss


On the ride to take my girl to work this morning, Adriana got in the car, looked at the clock and said, “Mom, it is 8:30, I’m late!” So mom overslept, and no amount of “hurry up, we are going to be late” was making her move any faster. Now my girl is upset that she will be late for work and her day will be ruined (Yes, I know I’m over reacting, but that is how I was feeling. I need more coffee). Then I thought, if I was talking about my typically developing daughter, I would be upset that she is blaming me for being late for school, work, etc. Brenda knows when she has to go to bed, how to set the alarm and her morning routine so she won’t be late. And who taught Brenda to do all those things? We did; her family! So it got me thinking…what have I done to make sure that I teach my kid with a disability to get ready for work by herself?

So immediately my mind went to: How to develop a goal and make it functional. We have to first go to the definition of a functional goal. The terms functional performance or functional goals have to do with things we do every day, routine activities, every day living activities that allow us to function in the world. In a school setting it has to do with goals that are not academic.

So I am, designing a goal that will facilitate my child with a disability to be on time in her job or any other activity she has to arrive at a specific time to. In this case I thought that since is we are looking at numbers and telling time, I would develop it as a math goal.

One of the challenges I hear most often from parents is what to do with math goals and how to make them functional. We use numbers pretty much every day in our life. And that is where my mind went when I was brainstorming how to design a functional goal for my kid to be on time for work (school, church, play date, scout meeting, etc)

When looking at a goal we have to start with the end result, what we want our kid to accomplish and then we have to break down the goal into steps. Each step is going to tell us what we need our kid to learn and master before we can move to the next part of the goal. Keep in mind that there are steps that will be the foundation for the next step while others we can work at the same time because they go together.

So I did a basic step by step for my goal: Adriana will be ready to go to work by 8:15 am on the days that she works with no prompting by 6 months from today.

Then we have to remember to check where our kid is. What things can they already do (Their present levels of performance)

Well for my daughter she already knows

  1. The numbers
  2. To read a clock – tell time (both analog and digital)
  3. To follow a simple schedule –
    1. school schedule, classes, breaks, bus pickup
    2. Family schedule – wake up, bath time, snack time, bed time, medicine time.

What we still have to work on:

  1. Understand “ready time”– What time do you need to start so you are ready for the activity you are going to do.
  2. Prepare all the things she needs to have with her before we leave for the activity
  3. Understand “travel time” What time you have to leave in order to be where you need to be “on time”
  4. Understand “duration” – how long is the activity

There are of course other math goals or ideas to work with numbers. The main question you want to ask yourself is “Can they use the knowledge from the classroom and translate so it works in a real life setting?” This is where the functionality of the knowledge comes to play. This is again where we go to the question of what can they already do and what do they already know, what is their Present level of academic and functional performance? Then you can work your question and design your goal. Other math goals that came to mind were

  1. Does she know our home phone number?
  2. Can she use numbers to know our address?
  3. Can she use numbers to use an ATM key pad for her credit card?
  4. Can she use numbers to round-up to the nearest dollar when paying? To buy stuff.
  5. Can she use the numbers to make a phone call? Call 911?
  6. Can she count the numbers of shirts she has, shoes?

The more I thought about her life and numbers I started brainstorming other things we need numbers for: Can she tell the size of her clothes and can she find a garment in her size? What about shoes? Does she know her shoe size? How much they cost? Does she know how much money she has? Is it enough to buy a meal, a soda, a coffee, a CD or a movie? Can she make a list and know now many of an item she needs to buy, like when she does groceries? Can she read a thermometer and know if she has a temperature or if she is “normal”? Can she identify if it is cold or hot outside by just looking at the temperature? What about the volume on the TV, how much charge her tablet or phone has? As you can see I went into a guilt trip thinking of how many other things I had not worked hard enough teaching my girl. All I could see, is that Adriana might be able to do some of these, but I have to make sure she is consistent with this knowledge so I know she has actually mastered the skill.

I want to encourage you to talk with your child’s teachers and therapists, job coach to see how you can come up with ideas on how to incorporate functional goals into your child’s IEP. Ask them how you can also work on these goals at home, remember, it takes a village to raise a kid.



Luz Adriana

My name is Luz Adriana Martinez and for the past 27 years I have been working in the field of advocacy for children with disabilities. I hold an MBA from the University of Phoenix and a BA from the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico. I'm married to a great guy, Tito, an Army Veteran of 22 years, who supports all the crazy things I do. Being an Army wife also prepared us to be always on the move and without daddy for long periods of time. This also gave me the opportunity work and volunteer with organizations whose mission was to assist other military families. This blog results from my desire to give back to the many families that have given me and mine so much. I have had the fortune to be able to travel the world assisting military families and now that that stage of my life is over, I want to continue to share what I have learned in the hopes that I can still provide some information and resources to families who need it.

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