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Translating IEP Goals to Home During COVID Using SEL Fundamentals

Translating IEP Goals to Home During COVID Using SEL Fundamentals

With schools working on how to deliver learning to students at home, figuring out how to support and monitor behavior goals can be particularly challenging. Having worked with a large number of students that have either had a 504 or an IEP, I have often dreamed that we would create living documents including strategies for both home and school, because as educators know, learning issues do not stop and start at the school door. Let’s look at some ways you might work to translate transition-related goals on an IEP into a home setting.  

At school, transitions look like moving from one assignment to the next or from one class to another. For a child who struggles with transitions, a plan might revolve around the use of prompts to transition from one activity to another. In order to support their students’ success and decrease the need for prompts, teachers create visual schedules and indicate when there are five minutes before the next activity We, as educators, help them assess how much time they will need to finish a task, if it can be done in the window they have left, and what a good stopping place might be. We help guide thinking around creating a plan for changes in the school day and often have high interest activities planned at the start of a period to help with the shift, all with the goal of having the student move toward autonomy and a reduced level of support.

At home, transitions are skills such as ending video games to go to bed, moving from playing with toys to reading or reading to dinner. To facilitate IEP goal achievement at home, begin by looking at where the IEP goals might overlap with at-home needs or tasks. By helping parents make this connection and working on translating the goal to the new environment, you can help the parent and student transfer skills for success. Not only does this help achieve current goals, but it is likely to create greater parental buy-in and consistency across settings leading to better skill acquisition in the long run.

Strategies for Translating IEP Goals to the Home Environment

  • Ask the student and/or parents to identify the greatest struggle in home routines happening right now. Talk about how the IEP goals might apply to that situation.
  • Pick a focus —don’t try to translate every goal.
  • Help parents create a visual schedule for young children. Have older children work on their own or work with you to create one.
  • Determine one or two measurable steps that reflect achieving those goals in the current setting. For example, have a timer set to be the prompt. An older student can use their phone alarm. Discuss whether the steps you tried were successful in supporting a smoother transition.
  • If achieving a task or assignment independently is part of his or her IEP plan, pick something at home that fits the bill, e.g. making his or her bed, getting breakfast, walking the dog.
  • Focus on a theme, think about basic skills like asking for help, expressing emotions, goal setting and planning, transitions, and prompts
  • Most importantly, be creative.

By validating how difficult it can be for parents to attend to their child’s needs at home, you can create a partnership that can help parents better understand what things like processing problems might look like at home and how routines and distractions affect behavior. In addition to this, as an educator, you are helping to connect these skills to practical life experiences for your student, while accomplishing the task of meeting base skills spelled out in an IEP.

This specific topic stems from a question raised by an educator on a recent webinar we hosted. If you’re interested in learning more about applying key SEL strategies during school closures, make sure to catch the recording of Using SEL Strategies to Navigate in Times of Crisis.


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Jen Perry

Jen Perry currently serves as the Director, Whole Learning and SEL at Edmentum. Jen joined Edmentum as the Learning Designer for Social-Emotional Learning after 30+ years of work with youth in educational and community settings. As a teacher, administrator, and trainer, her passion has been to help educators develop an understanding of the importance of social and emotional learning and build trauma-informed responses and systems. This work has included supporting youth, administrators, and schools in understanding behavior and implementing transformational change through strength-based approaches.