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Early Communication Tutorial - Setting Communication Goals
ODB Early Communication -  Communication Goals ODB Project Home
Process - Setting Communication Goals.

Developing Communication Goals

The second step in the instructional process is to develop goals and objectives based on the child's current level of communication. IDEA uses the terms "academic and functional" to describe the kind of goals that need to be written. Writing annual goals flows from the child's present levels of academic and functional performance. The skills targeted should be directly observable and measurable with specific criteria for success.

Academic Goals

Answering the question "what does the child need to learn or do academically?" indicates an academic goal. Examples could include learning to identify a range of sight words or write more proficiently. Other goals may target learning that comes from a special education or individualized curriculum, such as reading Braille. In many situations, goals and objectives must be tied to state standards. At the same time, it is important to develop goals and objectives that have both immediate and future utility.

Functional Goals

Another area for goals includes what the child needs to learn or be able to do functionally. These type of goals don't come under a typical "academic" curriculum. However, if a child has functional needs that impact participation in the educational environment, such as learning to communicate with an augmentative communication device, then goals to meet these needs would be critical to include in the IEP. Examples of functional goals include learning to eat independently, using public transportation, or communicating with an augmentative communication device,


IEP teams should ask:

  1. What can the student currently do?
  2. What challenging, yet attainable, goal can we expect the student to achieve in a year?
  3. How will we know that the student has reached this goal?

Source: (NICHCY, Online)

Goals can include a performance indicator (e.g., "Tom will identify a range of sight words at the first grade level or above.") or indicate a rate (e.g., "Maria will use signs to request desired objects in 3 out of 5 trials with no more than 50% teacher prompts or cues.")

A well written goal should describe a skill that can be seen and measured. It answers:

Who - who will achieve the goal?
What - what skills or behaviors are desired?
How - in what manner or at what level?
Where - in what setting or under what condition?
When - by what time?



Developing Objectives

Short term instructional objectives should be observable and measurable.
Can you measure whether or not the child has achieved the goal? The 2004 Amendments to IDEA, like its predecessors, requires that the annual goals be measurable. The IEP team must be able to tell if the goal has been reached, because the child's performance can be counted, seen, heard, or somehow measured. Criteria must be written in a manner that is possible to measure.

In order to document progress on objectives, criteria must be stated for each objective. Behavioral objectives should be stated in the positive.


Ensure objectives meet the communication goals

An instructional objective contains the following elements:

  1. the performance statement describes the final outcome of instruction in terms of behavior or knowledge gained. The performance statement will typically specify an action verb indicating what the learner is doing or producing:
    • "increase the ..."
    • "Points at..."
    AND the object of the action:
    • "...number of communicative acts..."
    • "...desired object..."
  2. the statement of conditions prescribes the conditions under which the learner will perform the behavior. The statement may include: materials used in the task, how the performance is accomplished, time elements and location of the performance.
    • "...during a 30 minute session..."
    • "...Given a choice of three objects..."
  3. the criterion measure specifies an acceptable standard of performance by which the final behavior may be judged.
    • "...to at least one per minute."
    • "...80% of the time."

The objective format contains the following elements, Who, What, How, How well.

  1. Who - the child;
  2. What (The performance statement) - will indicate a picture of a desired activity;
  3. How (The statement of conditions) - with prompting;
  4. How well (The criterion measure) - 80% of the time.

Considerations and Supports

Developing communication and language skills is a common thread in all goals and short term objectives written for a child who is deafblind. The skills that are targeted, need to be "directly observable and measurable with specific criteria for success listed."

When writing goals and objectives, the following considerations and supports should be addressed:

ODB Home | Communication Home | 1. Communication Overview | 2. Assessment
3. Setting Goals | 4. Developing Activities | 5. Monitoring Progress | 6. Updating Program

Western Oregon University | The Research Institute | The Oregon Deafblind Project

Ideas that work, IDEA logo

The Oregon Deafblind Project is funded through grant award # H326T130008, OSEP CFDA 84.326T, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education (OSEP), OSEP Project Officer: Susan Weigert.

However, the contents of this site does not necessarily represent the policy of the US Department of Education, and no assumption of endorsement by the Federal government should be made.

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