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Children with autism benefit from being diagnosed early and starting interventions as soon as possible. One way to do this is through pre-k programs that allow children to interact with each other and learn the skills required to be successful in the classroom as they get older.
Since children with autism do not pick up these skills like their neurotypical peers, they must be provided with instruction in order to learn them. While academics are an important part of this, social skills and the ability to communicate with others are what will really determine their ability to succeed in school. With all of this in mind for the student with autism, pre-K IEP goals should be sure to include a healthy balance of activities meant to address each.
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For children on the autism spectrum, communication can be very difficult. Even for children able to use their voice, the nuances of language and how conversations work can prevent them from appropriately interacting with others. Children with autism that are unable to speak with their voice should begin finding ways to successfully express themselves through other methods, such as a communication device, picture cards or sign language.
Example goal for a verbal child with autism:
Susy will participate in a conversation by verbally expressing one thought on topic with what her communication partner brings up on 3/4 opportunities.
Example goal for a nonverbal child with autism:
Mandy will hand a communication partner a picture card representing a desired item that she would like to use on 3/4 opportunities.
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How children interact with each other and the adults in their school is also an important part of learning and succeeding in the classroom. While all children are developing and fine tuning these skills, it is important for special attention to be given to kids with autism who will have difficulty doing so based on social cues from others. Therefore, for the student with autism, IEP goals should include developing these skills, especially in ways that are commonly required in the classroom.
Susy will raise her hand to ask the teacher a question when in a classroom group setting on 3/4 opportunities.
Mandy will participate in interactive play during a game waiting and taking turns appropriately for at least two turns.
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While academics should not be the priority of a a pre-K IEP, this is a good opportunity to address the basic skills that will be needed, such as number recognition, letter recognition and pre-literacy skills. Beginning to work on these skills can also help address the fact that it sometimes takes children with autism a longer time to learn things than it does for some of their peers.
Sharon will demonstrate receptive understanding of the number 1-5 by pointing to the named number in a field of 4 on 3/4 opportunities.
When handed a book, Susy will turn it the appropriate way and flip through the pages on 3/4 opportunities.
Mandy will pick her name out of a field of 4 that includes other names of students in the classroom on 3/4 opportunities.
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When it comes to a student with autism, IEP goals should address anything that will potentially make it difficult for a child with to succeed within the classroom. This can include behaviors that might develop over time. Because of the young age of these students, it is important to set high expectations and always push them to go a little beyond where they are at the time. However, this needs to be done in a positive way, because like all children, the first impressions they have of the school setting can set the tone for many years to come.