Question: Help! Our child's IEP team refused to include functional goals in the last IEP. When we said we would have to request another IEP meeting to resolve this issue, they agreed to include a few functional goals. I am afraid this will happen again. What can I do?
Answer: Since history tends to repeat itself, you are wise to think this may happen again. Write a polite thank you letter that describes what you requested, what you were told about not including functional goals in the IEP, and what the school finally agreed to provide. Your letter should include relevant information about your child's unique needs and your concerns. To learn more about this strategy, read Preparing for IEP Meetings: Providing Information & Sharing Concerns.
Q: Why don’t the regulations include examples of how functional skills?
The Commentary clarifies that the child's IEP should be based on the child's individual and unique needs. The IEP describes what the school will provide, given the child's unique needs for specific functional skills.
"We do not believe it is necessary to include examples of functional skills in the regulations because the range of functional skills is as varied as the individual needs of children with disabilities." (Commentary in the Federal Register, page 46661)
Q: What are examples of how functional skills are measured?
In order to measure the child’s present levels of functional skills, the school must evaluate these skills. While the regulations allow the school to determine what types of evaluation procedures they will use, the evaluation procedures must meet the same standards as other evaluations administered by the the school.
"We also decline to include examples of how functional skills are measured because this is a decision that is best left to public agencies, based on the needs of their children. However, it should be noted that the evaluation procedures used to measure a child’s functional skills must meet the same standards as all other evaluation procedures, consistent with § 300.304(c)(1)." (Commentary in the Federal Register, page 46661)
What does the word "appropriate" mean when used to refer to a child’s participation in "appropriate" activities? (Regulation § 300.320(a)(1)(ii))
This clarification emphasizes the need to focus on the unique needs of the child. An “appropriate” goal or activity for one child may be completely inappropriate for another child. Children are like snowflakes; no two are alike.
"The word "appropriate" in these regulations does not have a different meaning from its common usage. Generally, the word "appropriate" is used to mean "suitable" or "fitting" for a particular person, condition, occasion, or place. (Commentary in the Federal Register, page 46661)
Must all IEPs have a functional performance statement or functional annual goals?
We opened Wrightslaw: Special Education Law E-book in Adobe Reader and searched for these three terms: functional performance, functional skills and functional goals. [Click Edit - then Search or Find]
In Findings and Purposes, page 47
In Prohibition on mandatory medication, pages 84 and 225
In Reevaluations, pages 95 and p 240
In Evaluations before a change in eligibility (and the requirement that the school provide the child with a summary of academic achievement and functional performance if the child is no longer eligible because of graduation with a regular diploma or the child ages out of special ed), pages 98 and 240
In Requirements for IEPs, pages 99 and 245
In Requirements for the statement of individual appropriate accommodations to measure the child's academic achievement and functional performance on state and district testing, pages 100 and 246.
We found the terms "functional skills" and "functional goals" five times.
To learn about the new requirements for using present levels of functional performance to develop functional goals in IEPs, see pages 99 and 245 in Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition. Learn more about Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition. Order the book
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When the Department of Education published the IDEA 2004 regulations, they also published an “Analysis of Comments and Changes” (Commentary) to the regulations. The Commentary in the Federal Register begins at page 46547 and continues through page 46743.
More IDEA 2004 & IEP Resources
Legal Requirements of IEPs, Wrightslaw WebEx Training CD-ROM (1.25 hr training)
IDEA 2004: What You Need to Know About IEPs for Children with Behavior Problems - IDEA 2004 and the special education regulations include specific requirements for IEPs of children whose behavior impedes their learning or the learning of other children, including training teachers to use positive behavioral interventions and strategies.
IDEA 2004: IEPs, Highly Qualified Teachers & Research Based Instruction Learn about new language in IDEA 2004 that is designed to ensure that children with disabilities are taught by highly qualified teachers and receive research based instruction. This article includes new requirements for personnel training, IEPs, and scientifically based instruction.
IDEA 2004: What You Need to Know About IEPs & IEP Meetings - How did IEPs change under IDEA 2004? What does the law say about developing, reviewing and revising IEPs? Who may be excused from IEP meetings, when, how? When can the child's IEP be changed without an IEP meeting? What services must be provided when a child transfers to a district in the same state? A different state? What are multi-year IEPs?
Howey is an advocate who has helped parents obtain special education services
and resolve special education disputes. Read more of Pat's answers to questions submitted by people just like you in Ask the Advocate.