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Tuesday's Tip: 5 IEP Curriculums #3 Expanded/Functional

Most parents do not think of accommodations or modifications as part of an actual curriculum. However, it does help to look at it from a different perspective. My goal via these blogs is to help you realize that each of the 5 curriculum areas complement each other to create a life that allows the scholar to reach their full potential. Today's focus is on the expanded curriculum or the disability specific curriculum as well as addressing independent functional skills across environments. Below is the list of all 5 areas addressed in the different curriculums:

1) Genral Education Curriculum

2) Extracurricular and non-academic activity skills as well as recreation and leisure skills

3) Expanded curriculum / Disability specific curriculum /and independent functional skills across environments

4) Assistive technology devices/ services and curriculum

5) Behavioral curriculum


The expanded core curriculum defines concepts and skills that often require specialized research-based instruction with scholars who lack functional skills due to their disability.

This may include scholars who are:

  • Blind or visually impaired

  • Deaf or hearing impaired

  • Autistic (high or low functioning)

  • Have an intellectual disability

  • Learning disabilities in math, reading or writing

  • Have a disability that impairs their ability to access academic or functional skills, or

  • Disabilities that decrease their opportunities to learn incidentally by observing others.

These Functional Skill Areas can include:

  • Assistive Technology – use of a computer, adding a file

  • Career Education - Job exploration

  • Compensatory / Access Skills

    • Executive functioning

    • Behaviors

    • Communication

    • Sight

    • Mobility

    • Hearing

    • Sensory Efficiency, Modulations and Integration & environmental adjustments

  • Organizational skills, use of a graphic organizer, doing homework independently

  • Independent Living – Dressing, shopping, making change at checkout

  • Orientation and Mobility – not just for those who are blind

  • Recreation and Leisure -

  • Self-Determination – make own decisions

  • Social Interactions – social cue and processing skills that lead to social competency

These skills should be included in elementary and middle school IEPs as well as in transition plans. A comprehensive list of skills is available at Assessment of Functional Living Skills (AFLS ).

Why is an Expanded General Curriculum so important?

Expanded Core Curriculum can address:

Career Education

  • Provides scholars with an opportunity to learn through hands-on job experiences

  • Observe people working so they learn incidentally

  • Learn work-related skills such as responsibility, punctuality, and staying on task.

  • Career exploration and discovery of strengths, interests, and plan for the transition to adult life

Compensatory Skills

  • Learn the use of compensatory skills necessary for accessing the general curriculum

  • Address concept development, communication modes, organization, and study skills

  • Access to adapted print or audio materials

    • Camera for a picture of homework - (just the word math vs. pages)

    • Pre-printed notes

    • Taping of class or

    • Books on tape

Independent Living Skills

  • Learning the tasks and functions performed in Home, Community, School, as well as Participation, Independent Living and Vocational Skills

  • Increase independence and decrease prompt dependence

  • Need to generalize across environments learn compartmentally

  • Using systematic instruction and frequent practice in these daily tasks until mastered and retained

Orientation and Mobility (O&M)

  • Instruction in motor abilities to be oriented across settings – home school and community

  • To move as independently and safely as possible.

  • Spatial relationships, and purposeful movement

  • Travel in the community and use of public transportation

Recreation and Leisure

  • Awareness and exploration of recreation and leisure options

  • Instruction in organized or individual recreation and leisure skills

  • This is done because it facilitates community inclusion and participation


  • Decision and problem-solving skills

  • Thinking for oneself

  • Personal advocacy, assertiveness, and goal setting

  • This can be included in teaching a scholar to facilitate or participate in their IEP meeting

Sensory Regulation

  • Development of the proprioceptive (where you are in space), kinesthetic (touch), and vestibular (balance) systems

  • Use of Assistive Technology to use their senses efficiently (optical devices)

Social Interaction Skills

  • Awareness of body language, gestures, facial expressions, and personal space.

  • Management of interpersonal relationships like friendship skills

  • Self-regulation skills

  • Understanding of one’s sexuality

  • Instruction in social interaction skills across varied settings

  • Group participation skills

Expanded Curriculum Includes Disorder Specific Curriculum

Curriculum addresses functional outcomes and may be specific to a disorder of deficit. These include:

  • Deafness

    • ASL Sign language

    • Lip-reading

  • Blindness

    • Mobility training

    • Braille reading

    • Writing with a Brailler

  • Autism

    • Hidden/covert curriculum

    • Social cognition/ social judgment curriculum

    • Friendship curriculum

    • Stranger Danger curriculum (Circles)

  • Intellectual Disability

    • ADLs Activities of Daily Living

  • Language

    • Functional communication or

      • Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Devices

      • Speech Generating Device (SGD)

  • Physical disability

    • Power mobility training

  • Behavioral

    • Pattern recognition, emotional regulation,

    • Skills that move from mimetic, parallel, automatic, rule, or habit-based to conscious, deliberate, and Theory of Mind analysis based.

Expanded core curriculum must ensure:

  • Specialized instruction especially for scholars with low incidence diagnoses or presentations.

  • Availability of resources, including services, technical support, and professional development

  • Accountability by the development of highly specific outcomes based on areas of need.

  • Best practices and research-based programming for teaching and evaluating scholars


  • Awareness of the motivation of others

  • Bill paying

  • Clothing and laundry management

  • Communication skills

  • Community transportation use

  • Dressing skills

  • Eating at restaurants

  • Grooming

  • Health, safety & first aid

  • Household maintenance

  • Housekeeping and chores

  • Hygiene

  • Interacting with co-workers or peers

  • Interacting with supervisors or teachers

  • Job search and interview skills

  • Knowing one’s rights

  • Leisure skills

  • Making and keeping appointments

  • Medication management

  • Money /banking management

  • Nighttime routines

  • Office and organizational skills

  • Phone use

  • Preparing, cooking and eating food

  • Relationship management

  • Routines and managing other’s expectations

  • School and classroom skills

  • Self-determination

  • Self-regulation skills

  • Shopping

  • Social awareness and manners

  • Support personnel management

  • Technology access and use

  • Time management

  • Toileting

  • Unwritten curriculum/knowledge

  • Using bank cards

  • Vocational skills/payroll

  • Workplace safety

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