What are IEP Adaptive Goals for Preschoolers?

iep adaptive goals

What are adaptive goals for preschool?

When I think of adaptive goals, I think of goals that help a student navigate their environment more independently and are not necessarily related to motor skills, cognitive skills, or emotional skills. Adaptive skills are more self-care like dressing, eating, grooming, and toileting, imitation (such an important early childhood skill!), following routines in the environment, and classroom skills like task completion and cutting and gluing. 

IEP Goals for Preschool

One important note (before sharing some ideas) is to remember that IEP stands for INDIVIDUALIZED Education Plan. This means that getting ideas as a jumping point is great, just remember to ALWAYS work it like playdough to fit your actual student! Massage the heck out of it until it’s the right shape! Check out this BLOG on how to write a great IEP goal or this one on how to write the Progress Report

The following are some ideas for Adaptive IEP goals for preschoolers and Kindergarten students. 

Do you struggle with the time-consuming task of writing IEP goals for your Preschool Special Education students? Or finding the correct wording to create specific, meaningful goals to meet the needs of your early intervention and Pre-K students? This resource is perfect for busy teachers looking to save time and simplify the task of writing IEP goals.

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Imitation Goals

Imitation is such an important early childhood and early learning skill! We learn from the environment. We look around and see what people are doing or what obstacles we need to navigate, and we make decisions based on what we see. We think with our eyes!

Teaching students to look at what someone is doing or what their environment is saying and following that group plan is essential to their independence!

Here is a sample IEP goal to target imitation:

imitation goals

Imitation without direct prompt

When given an environmental cue to imitate (e.g., during group instruction or play), STUDENT will imitate gross motor actions modeled by an individual without being told to imitate each action improving imitation skills from BASELINE to at least 10 actions including some novel actions in a 2-hour session on three consecutive data days as measured by staff observation, daily tasks, and data records.

Dressing Goals

A young child who can dress themselves will not only offer independence but also allow them to develop their sense of self. How do I know, really, what my 2-year-old wants to wear! Maybe that shirt rubs on his skin and he hates it! Maybe that dress is the LAST thing my girl wants to put on (I agree!). 

Here is a sample IEP goal to target dressing:

Shoes on/off

When given a verbal or environmental cue to “take shoes on/off,” STUDENT will complete entire shoe routine (tying laces not required) with a loose-fitting shoe without assistance improving dressing skills from BASELINE to both on and off in 4 out of 5 consecutive opportunities on three consecutive data days as measured by staff observation, daily tasks, and data records.

dressing iep goal

Eating Goals

Independence in eating is not only physically getting food into their mouths (which IS important), but it is also pouring, cutting, getting and returning food, throwing away, keeping the area clean…. things we want our significant others to learn, too!

Here is a sample IEP goal to target Eating:

eating iep goal

Take prepared food to table

When given lunch and an environmental or verbal cue to take it to the table, STUDENT will take a prepared lunch tray or sack lunch to the table independently improving eating skills from BASELINE to each meal on three consecutive data days as measured by staff observation, daily tasks, and data records.

Grooming Goals

Providing support for a child to take care of their own body improves independence but also DIGNITY! Please, teach your child or student to look in the mirror, brush their hair, shower, use deodorant, brush their teeth, and WIPE THEIR OWN BUTT (if they can). It will give them the dignity they deserve.

Here is a sample IEP goal for Grooming:

Comb or brush hair

When given a verbal or environmental cue to “comb/brush hair,” STUDENT will comb or brush hair at least 10 strokes without assistance improving grooming skills from BASELINE to 4 out of 5 consecutive opportunities across three consecutive data days as measured by staff observation, daily tasks, and data records.

grooming iep goal

Find some great visuals and task analyses in this bundle to help with some of these grooming and other life skills. Tons of great stuff, here!

Toileting Goals

OK, also wipe your butt here. Toileting, again, provides a person with dignity through the independence of going when they need to go, where they need to go. Provide support to learn a way to communicate NEED as well as teach HOW. 

Here is a sample Toileting IEP goal:

toileting iep goal

Wipe self after bowel movement

When given the end of defecation, STUDENT will independently wipe self until the toilet paper is clean after a bowel movement improving toileting skills from BASELINE to at least 3 times a week as measured by staff observation, daily tasks, and data records.

Follows Classroom Routine

Yes, I believe that following classroom routines and directions is part of Adaptive goals (as well as Language and Behavior). Some of this comes from that Imitation foundation, but also Observational Learning, looking at the environment and doing what the “group” is doing. We use this skill in life ALL the time! Skills here may include following a schedule, working independently, waiting during transitions, and transitioning.

Here is a sample Classroom Routine goal:

Waits appropriately during transitions

When given an upcoming transition, STUDENT will wait without maladaptive behavior until signaled to transition improving waiting from BASELINE to 2 minutes without prompts in 4 out of 5 consecutive opportunities on three consecutive data days as measured by staff observation, daily tasks, and data records.

adaptive iep goals for preschool classroom

Grab this FREE preschool social emotional learning activity I Can Follow Classroom Rules

Group Instruction

Follow the group plan! Learning to do what the group is doing is also essential to learn in early childhood development. It’s a skill that will come in mighty handy as those kids grow up. Skills may include sitting in a group (just sitting without participating), listening with the “whole body,” following group instructions, raising hand, and  taking turns.

Here is a sample Group Instruction IEP goal for preschool:

preschool circle time

Attends in a group

When given a group teaching situation and a response or behavior to attend to, STUDENT will use whole body listening (i.e., eyes on speaker or task, raise hand before speaking or talking out, hands to self or on task, body calm and on task) without disruptive behavior improving group instruction from BASELINE to, in a group of at least 4, attending at least 75% of the time of a 15-minute group on 3 consecutive data collection days as measured by staff observation, daily tasks, and data records.

Find some circle time or small group ideas here!

Task Completion

Teaching students to start, stay on task, and complete a task (any task!) is vital as they continue on in their education and then career path. Skills may include starting a task without delay, asking for help, figuring out IF they need help or can just do it, staying on task, completing the task, putting the task away, and so forth.

Here is a sample Task Completion goal:

Initiate task OR ask for help

When given an academic task at the instructional level and positive behavior supports, STUDENT will either 1) initiate the task within 1 minute with no more than 1 prompt or 2) ask for help to get the work started or modified with no more than 1 prompt and then begin the work improving task initiation from BASELINE to 9 out of 10 work opportunities across 5 data days as measured by staff observation, daily tasks, and data records. STUDENT will also decrease work refusal behaviors (defined as verbal refusal, arguing, passive non-compliance, blurting, or eloping) from BASELINE to no more than once a day, lasting no more than 2 minutes, 5 consecutive data days.

stay on task goals

Remember! This is not an exhaustive list but just some ideas to get you going! Trying to make teachers’ and clinicians’ lives a little easier because coming up with fresh ideas can be hard! 

This is a set of IEP goals WITH instructions and broken down into editable objectives for the domain of ADAPTIVE. Other domains also available (BehaviorCognitiveLanguageSocial Emotional). Includes bonus daily raw data collection forms.

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Hi! I'm Audra!

I am a special education teacher, behavior analyst, and parent to an autistic adult. I love sharing the insights and resources I have gleaned over the past 25 years. Thanks for being here!

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