Writing IEPs with Alternative Goals for Online Students

Is there anyone else out there who feels like they have stepped into some dystopian novel that we all will be waking from sometime soon? 2020 has become such a bizarre year, and education has taken some seriously unusual turns over the past 6 months, that my topic for this month is writing IEPs with alternative goals for online students. Alternative goals at home? Wow. That is sure a tall order.

In the spring, I read many examples of possible alternative IEP goals for students to work on at home. They were incredibly complex and required parents to follow 5, 000 steps or take on the role of the teacher full-time. I feel there needs to be a balance between our students continuing their learning, and the realities of what families are facing in the context of a global pandemic. I understand that the goal is that we work towards 225 minutes of synchronous learning a day, but the reality is, 225 minutes is hard to achieve when I have a class in-person as well and the parents are working from home. I feel the better option is to work closely with parents to prioritize their child’s learning needs and support them through this process. Therefore, in preparing this year’s IEPs and online learning program, I have asked for a lot of parent input. I have asked for even more than usual to get an idea of what is even manageable in their home. This year more than ever, we are partners in their child’s learning. I have asked questions like:

  1. How much time are you available to support your child both online and offline?
  2. What is the most important thing that you would like to have your child learn in term 1?
  3. Which one of the following works best for you: worksheets, apps, websites, YouTube videos or manipulatives?

My goal is to have my students learning in a way that is manageable for parents as the reality is, all of my students will need family support for them to continue their learning. None of my students can turn on the computer, find activities for themselves or navigate websites. Therefore, I have focused their IEP for term 1 on goals that are manageable and beneficial.

Some example of alternatives goals that I will be using are:

Life Skills:

__________ can follow visual steps to remove sheets from their bed and place them in the laundry basket.

__________ can follow visual steps to prepare a sandwich for lunch.

__________ can follow visual steps to independently change pads during menstruation.

__________ can brush teeth after meals.

__________ can select and put on clothes in the morning.


__________ can count items up to 10.

__________ can identify amounts that are more or less than 5.

__________ can count out the correct number of plates to set the table for dinner.


__________ can read short passages on the computer.

__________ can write a list of their favourite things.

__________ can read their name in a variety of contexts.


__________ can respond to questions about their interests using one word answers.

__________ can listen and respond to questions that begin with “who”, using two to three words.

__________ can identify their favourite items in their home using one word.

All of the above goals will be assessed and evaluated though a combination of observations during online meetings, websites that record student progress ( e.g., education.com) and conversations with parents. To all of those first year teachers doing online learning for students on alternative IEPs, my advice is to keep it simple!

Hopefully, 2021 will start to see a return of students coming back to school where we can support them all day long. I can’t wait!!!!


The Author

Tammy Axt

I am a teacher of students with special needs in the Peel District School Board. This is my third year in the role and I am in the middle of a steep learning curve! I am loving every minute of this new experience with my amazing and awesome students.

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