Language-based IEP goals

What’s the funniest IEP goal you’ve ever seen? For me I think it would have to be: Susie will cross the street safely in 8 out of 10 opportunities (yes that was a real goal!). A couple of other good ones: John will do homework if his parents see it to be appropriate (apparently they never did!) and Sam will appear to be paying attention during instruction (an important life skill for us all!).



Despite the humorous side to some IEPs, they really are a serious business. They can be a time consuming and mentally exhausting undertaking for school staff but they are also a really powerful and worthwhile tool in helping students with a disability to reach their personal and educational potential.


According to Education Queensland, the IEP process is a “means of collaboratively planning for the educational needs of students. It brings together parents/carers, educators, specialist support staff and the student (where appropriate) as a team to consider the student’s current level of performance and to determine the student’s educational needs and future learning priorities1.”

Although IEPs are no longer mandatory, most schools continue to write and use IEPs as a way of informing intervention and the extra learning support provided to students with a disability.

As a speech language pathologist I have seen hundreds of IEPs for students with language difficulties and I’ve noticed that effectivIEP2e language-based IEP goals can be tricky to write!

I believe that effective language-based goals start with a good understanding of language. As speech language pathologists we often talk about language form, content and use.

Language form

Includes sentence structure and grammar. Students may drop word endings, use incorrect tense or have difficulty with pronouns. They may have difficulty with the order of words in sentences.

 Language content

Includes understanding of words, how to use words and word meanings. Students may have difficulty picking up new classroom vocabulary, defining words or finding the right word to use.

Language use

Includes how we use language to communicate needs, wants, ideas in different situations, changing how we communicate when we  communicate with different partners such as teachers, parents, brothers/sisters and friends. Students may have difficulty reading body language, knowing the rules of answering questions when asked, understanding humour, or taking turns to maintain a conversation.

When writing goals, consider which specific area of language your students are having difficulty with.


Examples of language-based IEP goals:

Language form:

X will correctly produce ‘Agent – Action – Adjective – Object’ sentences (eg. The boy kicked the red ball) in response to pictorial stimuli with a minimum of 90% accuracy.

Language content:

X will provide appropriate (not necessarily correct) responses to who, when and where questions with a minimum of 90% accuracy.

Language use:

X will greet the classroom teacher and teacher aide with “Good morning Mrs Smith/Jones” when he first arrives at the classroom 4 out of 5 mornings.

Where possible, have a speech language pathologist provide input into any communication-based IEP goals.

By Julie Leneham (Speech Language Pathologist)

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