Print this Post

Tip of the Month – February 2018 – 1: Writing IEP goals for developing AAC

Writing IEP goals for developing AAC

The IEP process in New Zealand

The Individual Education plan (IEP) “brings together a team of people closely involved with the student to collaboratively plan a program to meet the student’s needs.”

The Ministry of Education provides the following information about IEPS and IPs for New Zealand students



You can download a copy of Collaboration for Success: Individual Education Plans here


But what about our students who are beginning to use AAC to communicate and share their knowledge and ideas at school? How do we make sure that their IEP goals are relevant to supporting their developing communicative competence?

Assessment and goal setting

IEP goals should be based on assessments of the student’s current strengths and abilities.

The 4 areas of communicative competences are:

Linguistic competence – for an AAC user this includes mastery of the language and vocabulary of their AAC system, and understanding of the “native language” that is spoken by other people. The student needs to learn the symbols used to represent vocabulary/language and begin to combine them to create phrases and sentences. Development of language within AAC should follow models of typical language development.  Gail van Tatenhove has outlined some useful information about language development and AAC here.


Operational competence – includes the development of the technical skills used to operate the AAC system and the ability to use the system “features”. E.g. Student or support person knows how to turn the device on and off, student can activate the message window, student can use the clear button after their message is spoken, student can adjust the volume as appropriate to the environment etc.


Strategic competence – includes development of compensatory strategies to allow effective communication. This includes the ability to repair communication breakdowns or misunderstandings, or to convey information about a word or concept that may not be in their current device vocabulary. E.g. The student might learn to use strategies like “ask me a Yes/No question”, “it’s about ….a person/place/activity…”, “it’s in my book, please get it”, “it’s not in my system, add it”, “Please guess”, “no you’ve got it wrong”, “let’s start again” etc.


Social competence – includes development of the skills required to engage in meaningful and appropriate communication with a variety of people in different settings. This includes turn taking, initiating, maintaining, developing, and terminating communication interactions. The student should be able to comment, ask and answer questions, greet people, protest, get attention, share their feelings, request things, label, share their news etc. Sarah Blackstone’s Social Networks Assessment (Blackstone & Hunt Berg, 2012) could be a useful tool to consider for gathering information about your student’s social communication needs.


IEP goals for Emergent Literacy

Let’s not forget to include some IEP goals to support literacy development for our AAC users. Children with complex communication needs also need the opportunity to participate in the many benefits of being literate.  In the long term if a student with complex communication needs is able to develop their literacy skills, this will help them to communicate about anything, regardless of what vocabulary is programmed into their system. The Center for Literacy and Disability Studies has some sample goals here: https://www.med.unc.edu/ahs/clds/resources/deaf-blind-model-classroom-resources/EmergentLiteracyGoals2009.pdf


Other resources to support IEP goal writing for AAC users

Others in our international AAC community have also given thought to writing IEP goals for our AAC users, so do check out these useful links for more information and ideas.


Gail Porter and Linda Burkhart remind us to Ensure that Communication Goals and Objectives:

  • Incorporate flexibility for the child to say what they want to say when they want to say it
  • Do not require the child will have to communicate what someone else wants them to say


See more information from Linda Burkhart about writing IEP goals in the links below.



Tobii Dynavox has developed the DAGG (Dynamic AAC Goal Grid):


And in Western Australia the Independent Living Centre has put together a good summary of considerations for IEP goals and AAC:


Rett University also has some sample IEP goals:



Remember: Communication opportunities throughout the school day

Remember that although you main have some main IEP goals relating to AAC there are lots of ‘incidental’ communication opportunities you could be working on throughout the school day:

  • My support team always talks to me using my communication system (modelling!)
  • I can answer the role and ask/answer questions at news time
  • I can share news from home and from school
  • I can say hi to everyone in my school (hi walk)
  • I can talk about my day….what I will be doing and with whom, what I want to do, how I am feeling
  • I can do a daily job in school/community/take a message
  • I can play games using communication system
  • I can share photos of myself and tell you things about them
  • I interact with stories every day
  • I can choose, choose, choose (what to do, which order, who to do it with, where, how, songs/rewards/music instruments/games/computer programs, who to sit by etc.)
  • I can talk about my feelings and how my friends and family are feeling
  • I can express an opinion about lots of things (food/story/games/other kids work etc.)
  • I can choose a buddy to do things with and a game to play with my buddy
  • I can make up stories using fuzzy felt, Clicker 6 or symbol boards
  • I can interact with/talk about concepts in stories
  • I can talk about my body and name my body parts



Blackstone, S., & Hunt Berg, M. (2012). Social networks: an assessment and intervention planning inventory for individuals with complex communication needs and their communication partners. Verona, WI: Attainment Company Inc.

Burkhart, L. & Porter, G. (2010). Writing IEP Goals for Emergent Communicators. Handout from Barcelona ISAAC conference. Retrieved from http://www.lindaburkhart.com/hand_ISAAC_B/IEP_goals_ISAAC_Barcelona_handout.pdf

Burkhart, L. & Porter, G. (2010). Writing IEP Goals and Objectives for Authentic Communication – for Children with Complex Communication Needs. Retrieved from http://lburkhart.com/Writing_IEP_Goals_rev11.pdf

Erickson, K. & Hanser, G. (2009). Sample Emergent Literacy IEP Goals. Center for Literacy and Disability Studies. Retrived from https://www.med.unc.edu/ahs/clds/resources/deaf-blind-model-classroom-resources/EmergentLiteracyGoals2009.pdf

Independent Living Centre WA (2016). Setting goals for AAC. Retrieved from http://ilc.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Setting_Goals_for_AAC.pdf

Kovach, T. M. (2009). Augmentative & Alternative Communication Profile: A Continuum of Learning. East Moline, IL: LinguiSystems.

Light, J. (1989). Toward a definition of communicative competence for individuals using augmentative and alternative communication systems. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, (5), 137-144.

Ministry of Education (2011). Collaboration for Success: Individual Education Plans. Learning Media Ltd

Van Tatenhove, G.M. (2016). Normal Language Acquisition & Children using AAC systems. Retrieved from http://www.vantatenhove.com/files/papers/Common/NLD&AAC.doc

Van Tatenhove, G.M. (2013). AAC in the IEP. Retrieved from http://www.vantatenhove.com/files/handouts/AACInIEP.pdf



Created by Anita McDrury (Speech Language Therapist) on 18/09/2017. Click here to download the Tip of the Month.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.talklink.org.nz/index.php/2018/02/01/tip-of-the-month-february-2018-1-writing-iep-goals-for-developing-aac/


  1. aprilia kinanti

    please give me more explaination about How do we make sure that their IEP goals are relevant to supporting their developing communicative competence?

  2. Ann Smaill
    Ann Smaill

    Good question. I think careful assessment helps this process, The reference to: Kovach, T. M. (2009). Augmentative & Alternative Communication Profile: A Continuum of Learning. East Moline, IL: LinguiSystems. is a useful resource for assessing the 4 areas of communication competence. The great thing about this tool is that by regularly using it, you can measure gains and change your goals accordingly. The other nice thing about this tool is it also looks at the communication partners role and what they should be doing to support communication competence.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Donate Now