5 IEP CURRICULUMS #3 Expanded / Functional


Usually, parents do not think of accommodations or modifications as part of an actual curriculum.  It does help to look at things from a different perspective because each of the 5 curriculum areas complements each other so that the child can have as full a life as possible.  It's not just reading, writing, and arithmetic that we address in the IEP. The purpose of the IEP is to come up with a plan that will allow the child to access all of their education. That means that the accommodations and modifications that can be associated with an IEP must also address non-academic issues that get in the way of learning. 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.

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

4) Assistive technology devices/ services and curriculum

5) Behavioral curriculum

1) Core curriculum

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



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

This may include students 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 AFLS - Assessment of Functional Living Skills that does prompt levels




Expanded Core Curriculum can address:

  Career Education

  • Provides students 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 core 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
  • Refer to the AFLS - Assessment of Functional Living Skills for a fairly comprehensive list
  • 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 student 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 SGD or AAC
      • Augmentative and Alternative Communication Devices
      • Speech Generating Device
    • 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 students 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 students



  • 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 AND
  • Workplace safety


This is the second of 4 blogs addressing curriculum within the IEP.  Make sure you SUBSCRIBE to the blog so you do not miss any of them.


#4 Assistive Technology Curriculum

#5 Behavior

#1 Core & #2 Extra Curricular


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Marie Lewis is an author, consultant, and national speaker on best practices in education advocacy. She is a parent of 3 children and a Disability Case Manager, Board Certified Education Advocate, and Behavior Specialist Consultant. She has assisted in the development of thousands of IEPs nationally and consults on developing appropriately individualized IEPs that are outcome-based vs legally sufficient. She brings a great depth of expertise, practical experience, and compassion to her work as well as expert insight, vision, and systemic thinking. She is passionate and funny and she always inspires and informs.


MJ Gore has an MEd in counseling and a degree in elementary education and natural sciences. She worked as a life-skills and learning support teacher. She has been honored with the receipt of the Presidential Volunteer Service Award. She is the Director and on the faculty at the National Special Education Advocacy Institute. Her passion is social justice, especially in the area of education. She is a Board Certified Education Advocate who teaches professional advocates, educators, and clinicians the best practices in education advocacy.



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