PT looking for Suggestions for IEP Goal Writing for the Autistic Population

Kristen, PT, Posts:

DEAR ERI COMMUNITY: I am a school related PT working with kids in cyber school setting. I worked in the school setting following college for several years and then took another several years off while raising my 3 children. Going back to work in this new setting is challenging in many ways. First of all I am the only PT employed by this center and lack a professional peer group. I happened upon this website looking for suggestions for goal writing with children that are not in the traditional school setting but are young (5-8) and would have difficulties in a traditional school setting. For example, the children don’t have access in their current educational environment to heavy doors, stairwells, playground equipment, etc., but I feel as if they should be prepared in the event that they do attend a traditional school in the future. I am also curious about writing goals for children with autism who lack motivation to participate in many gross motor activities such as ball skills. Is it appropriate to work in these areas? Consistent performance of skills is difficult with behavior issues therefore traditional goal writing methods I previously used are complicated. Many of my clients have autism and this is new compared to the large percentage of children with cerebral palsy that I commonly treated in the past. Any related information or suggestions you could share or links to IEP goal writing for the autistic population would be helpful. I am really excited to have found this website!!!

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6 Responses to PT looking for Suggestions for IEP Goal Writing for the Autistic Population

  1. cKillough says:

    I work in a traditional school setting with autistic children. Do you have any knowledge on sensory integration techniques that can help an autistic child focus on the task at hand? These are very useful tools in treating the autistic child. As far as goals and treatment, stairs are very important. You can purchase a set of 4 steps or have the local school based shop class make some for you. They are usually very helpful in building equipment at a reasonable or free cost. Goal setting is a challenge. What environment are the children encountering in the future? Goals such as ball use, standing on 1 foot etc., are all strength, balance and coordination activities. What in their environment is important. They will experience PE in some settings so minimal ball skills would be helpful. Swinging is also a skill that can be helpful to an autistic child. As far as goals meeting if an autistic child does the skill 1 time I consider it met. At that point you know they can do it physically even though you may never see it again.

  2. Coleen says:

    Working with kids with Autism IS really unique, isn’t it! My experience is primarily working with the birth -5 population, butiI have a few suggestions. First, it would be helpful to be trained in DIR or ABA or whatever treatment approach is being used with these kids. I have found a good string DIR program most effective, but it depends on the child & family.
    Second, in terms of goals, motor skills are needed for safety, social interaction (ball play can be a reciprocal game), exercise & health, & sensory input. I typically start with the sensory piece to get engagement & move on from there. Finally, I don’t know if you are familiar with SCERTS, but it is a step by step assessment of skills & when used by the whole team, it can practically write your goals for you. Good luck!

  3. Miki says:

    The goals/objectives would be written to reflect fucntional gross motor skills needed to access the current educational program (balance strength,postural stability and endurance, mobility..). If the students attend a physical education class, ball skills or other such skills related to specific gross motor skills utilized in PE class could possibly also worked on by the PE teacher. Use whatever behvaior system the classroom teacher or psychologist has impemented for each individual student to promote consistency with that respect.
    Remember you are part of a team of professionals working with the students: What you are working on, can be reinforced by others, as well as what other team members can be reinforced by you. In a school setting you do not necessarily need to take sole ownership of the gross motor goals/objectives-
    In the school setting when looking at your student’s gross motor needs:
    what would be the educational out come of the goals/objectives? The goals/objectives would be written as such.

    • Chris says:

      I agree with Miki. I think it is important to know and study the ICF model of disability to help guide our practice in the schools. I have been a school based PT for 7 years. I think it is important to look at participation skills for kids with autism (or any disability) and support students primarily through supporting staff who work with the students daily. Is the ultimate goal that a student can catch a ball 5 times? And if so, why? Or is it that the student would participate in a motor game with peers (i.e. stop and go, which includes safety practice of stopping on a verbal cue in a social setting)? Participating in a motor game does not necessarily require the expertise of a physical therapist, but of course sometimes does as well.

      I think a good way to think about the goals is to write student goals, not discipline specific goals. I think that both helps the team to know that we are all working on all goals, and to write goals that are based on participation needs and not impairment needs. Irene McEwen has some great articles regarding school based PT. This is also a good reference site –

  4. Lillian Bray says:

    I am a PT in the school setting working with 5-22. I use token systems and lots of sensory motor activities while working on ball skills, balance, and traditional motor skills. I write goals for participation in small group activities which can be board games as well as ball play and doing the hokey pokey. I feel that motor skills help with attention, focus, and sitting in a group. I work with autism team members who have knowledge in the above mentioned strategies. They put the behavior plan in place which I also use. Lastly, I am fortunate to have treadmills in alot of my schools which provides rhythmic activity in a controlled environment which my students with autism love.

  5. Patty Ross says:

    Thanks for the insight. I am an “old” PT who has never done school based therapy but my EI company has recently added some contracts with local Cyber schools. So now I find it even more difficult to think about goals that need my expertise because I cannot even use peer/social interaction in my goals. Any suggestions?

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