The key feature in achieving success in academics for a child having special Needs is the ability to create a “Well thought Out IEP” and not just a Good IEP. When I say a Well Thought Out IEP, I mean an education plan that is actually going to suit the individual need of the kid keeping in view his specific requirements, which may be very different from yet another kid who is probably just as high functioning as the first one. The fact remains that it is not just the level of difficulty that a kid faces that determines what exactly the child needs to learn but also his family circumstances, financial background and various other aspects. To elaborate upon what I am saying, I would like to draw an example from one of my experiences wherein, I was dealing with adolescents, I came upon a situation where I needed to take my next step and form the next IEP. It occurred to me that independent cash dealing was what was the need of the hour for these boys and girls as they were now moving out on their own and would sometimes need to undertake complicated financial transactions beyond the point of giving change for Rs. 100, Rs. 500/- etc.

So, I made Goals for these five boys and girls without putting much thought into it. Each ones goal sheet read something like this: “XYZ will go to a grocery shop and independently make a transaction of upto rupees 1000/- while buying grocery items for their household”. XYZ will be able to calculate using a calculator and pay cash accordingly by giving either two 500 rupee notes or a 1000 rupee note “. “XYZ will be able to calculate how much money to expect back” and so on.

And so the training started. Initially, within the classroom, setting up a mock grocery store with artificial currency and slowly we started moving to more practical scenarios and taking kids out to real grocery stores with real money. It so happened that the system worked brilliantly for 4 out of the 5 students and parents too added that they were very happy with the level of independence achieved by their kids. However, for the fifth student, while she had learnt the skill in the classroom and could also do a practical with some support, nothing substantial happened back home as far as independence of the person was concerned.

Confused, I further probed the parents to understand the situation. What I found out was so stunning and reflected straightaway on my lack of fore-planning and lack of knowing my student and her circumstances.

The parents revealed that they only shopped in a particular upmarket super luxury mall as they were friends with the owner of the mall(rich guys!) and out of a fear that servants might cheat the girl(my student)  for the money or harm her in some way, in the event of the parents being away at work and cash being with the student, they had worked out an arrangement with the mall owner where their child was allowed to pick up anything she wanted. The bill was sent via a whats-app image to the parent who made a bank transfer within the next few minutes. End of matter.

So, without this crucial piece of information, I had simply put up an IEP for the student and wasted considerable amount of time as a practical was never happening at home. All this while she was simply going to the mall, picking up whatever she wanted and that was it.

This goal was a “Good Goal” but NOT “A Well Thought Out Goal” for her.

Precious time wasted. That incident taught me a very vital aspect of creating an IEP for my students for the future. I realized the importance of checking up all circumstances and involving parents by asking questions such as “I feel the child would benefit a lot from this particular goal as this is how it will lead to higher independence and better life style, but I wish to understand from you if you feel this would be workable for your child, in case not, lets discuss, why and what according to you should be taken up that would help the child’s potential to bloom to the fullest”.

Eventually, the goal that we set up for this girl was,  using a debit/credit card, and a calculator pay to the grocery store and know that you have paid the correct amount, finally completing the transaction by signing the debit card slip after having checked the bill on the calculator.

By means of this example, I wish to bring to awareness the fact to all educators that every child is different, their needs are different, their circumstances are different. Before freezing any goal for a student, it is of utmost importance to be aware of the child inside out so that the child may benefit fully and time be utilized best.

(If you like this article, please visit us on www.sashaktican.com for more on autism. Thanks)