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Part I: Writing Developmentally Appropriate Goals and Objectives For Natural Environments
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Part I: Writing Developmentally Appropriate Goals
and Objectives For Natural Environments

The following three-part article is intended to describe developmentally appropriate goals and objectives for young children with disabilities which facilitate instructional inclusion in natural settings. Part I defines developmentally appropriate goals and objectives; Part II(Fall, 97 issue) will present examples of DAP goals and objectives that have been effective with children in natural environments; Part III (January issue) will share some strategies for the development of DAP goals and objectives.

Developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) and its compatibility with recommended practice for early childhood special education has been the topic of much debate (Fox, Hanline, Vail, & Galant, 1996). One issue raised is that individual objectives, an integral component of special education, are incompatible with child directed learning and activities (McCollum & Bair, 1994). This issue is critical for early childhood special education (ECSE) because research supports the use of individual objectives as a clear indicator of successful intervention (Wolery, Strain, & Baily, 1992). While proponents of DAP do not require the development of individual plans for all children in early childhood settings, such as the IEP with its individualized objectives, neither do they disagree with its importance for children with disabilities (Bredekamp & Rosegrant, 1997).

DAP was not originally designed for ECSE and therefore should not be expected to accommodate all the issues and challenges of our field without our careful consideration. Through recent efforts of researchers, practitioners, and policy makers, strides have been made to assist both fields in clarifying where and how EC and ECSE converge to accomplish their unique missions for children. While this synthesis of information is crucial for the inclusion of young children with disabilities in natural settings, it is reasonable to expect there could continue to be areas of divergence due to social policy and governmental regulations. It will be up to practitioners working in both fields to seek common ground on issues of importance. The following offers a description of how individualized goals and objectives can be merged with DAP, and hopefully improve practices in both EC and ECSE for young children with disabilities by providing the best of both fields.

Developmentally Appropriate Goals and Objectives

Are Age and Individually Appropriate
While normal development provides a basic framework, goals and objectives are based on individual strengths and deficits. They are reflective of the child's overall learning, development and individual needs, not just narrowly defined basic skills (Bredekamp & Rosegrant, 1992). This assures that each child's unique learning patterns and timing of growth are considered within the predictable sequences of each developmental domain. The subskills, identified as objectives, are individually determined and should be required for each specific child to accomplish the long range goal. A child's plan is developed individually, not as a whole class ("everyone has cognitive goals") or a disability group ("all children with autism work on this"), and it is rare to find similar IEP documents.

Are Linked To Child's Programmatic Assessments
While the use of an outcomes based assessment with the intent to accelerate a child's learning may appear to be a divergence from the concept of DAP, it is one of the distinctive principles of ECSE (Atwater, Carta, Schwartz, & McConnell, 1994). IEP goals and objectives written from programmatic (curriculum based) assessments have consistently been evaluated as more functional and result in improved team planning for intervention services (Notari-Syverson & Lerner Shuster, 1995). Instruments (CBA), informal teacher made checklists, or behavior samples (e.g. language, peer interactions) administered nonintrusively through observation of the child within the context of daily routines and activities provide valid and functional information for programmatic purposes and are advocated within DAP. NAEYC also emphasizes the importance of knowledge of the individual child for program planning; it disagrees with "readiness" testing or the use of a single measure to assess outcomes. The concept of individual appropriateness emphasizes the importance of programmatic assessment and monitoring.

Enhance the Child's Functioning In Current Settings and Facilitate Participation In Future Inclusive Environments
All goals and objectives should be designed to consider the unique abilities and interests of the child as well as the specific concerns and priorities of the family. Developmentally appropriate curriculum is designed to attend to the community, cultural, and linguistic needs of all children served, thereby providing a framework for the individualization of skills for children with developmental disabilities. The appropriateness of planning skill development for future environments could easily be questioned. However, research indicates that the skills necessary for success in environments such as kindergarten are not the academic skills that DAP would fault. Rather, skills that can be used in a variety of settings, including increasing child engagement, enhancing independence, and facilitating the childish ability to participate in large and small group interactions, are the skills to be developed (Wolery, 1994).

Are Functional and Meaningful For The Child Within The Context of Their Family and Community.
DAP rejects narrow drill and practice on specific academic or splinter skills (e.g. writes name, stacks 4 cubes, names 6 farm animals) just as DEC recommended practices do, and, therefore, neither field would support identification of these skills on IEP (McLean & Wolery, 1996). Goals and subsequent training objectives that reflect skills useful at school, in child care facilities, at home, and within the community should be prioritized. For example, "grasp and release of objects into defined spaces" as an IEP goal is a generative and a functional fine motor skill crucial for daily living and for future academic endeavors (e.g. writing with a pencil). It can be taught not only through opportunities for stacking blocks and putting puzzles together, but also while putting groceries in the cupboards at home or in the household center, laundry into the hamper, toys on the appropriate shelf, or litter into the garbage can. This goal would result in a skill useful in multiple environments with varying caregivers.

Enhance The Child's Ability To Participate In Daily Routines and Activities With Friends and Family.
The example of grasping and releasing objects described in the previous section can be used to further illustrate this premise of DAP goals and objectives. Skills targeted, such as grasp and release, serve to increase the childish engagement and active participation in typical routines, play and activities that occur at school, home and child care resulting in increased independence. Daily routines and activities with friends and family members motivate and reinforce the child, reducing the need for extrinsic reinforcement. Targeting skills such as these are likely to result in the utilization of intervention strategies that are also developmentally appropriate because they occur within routines and activities, using only the level of support necessary to enhance the child's learning.

When the team, guided by the family, identifies and plans developmentally appropriate goals and objectives for a child, they are using their knowledge of the child's abilities, interests, and activities to integrate teaching and learning opportunities related to specific priorities and concerns. To be effective, the team must carefully examine the program, its curriculum and match the content and strategies necessary to enhance the childish development. Writing DAP goals and objectives is the first step for teamwork in instructional inclusion but certainly not the last. The team must also make the commitment to communicate routinely, to objectively monitor the program and the child's progress, and to share knowledge and expertise.

Submitted by Juliann Woods Cripe, Derek Jones, and Laura Major,
Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders, Valdosta State University,
Valdosta, Georgia.

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