September Checklist

By now you should be familiar with your students’ IEPs and the essence statements that will be assessed. You have established schedules for staff and students and you are developing lessons to target skills.

Develop Relationships

In Applied Behavior Analysis terms, this is known as positive pairing. Make yourself a valuable resource for your students, so that when you are around, they feel safe and supported and know that reinforcement is coming. You want to be the “giver” and not the “taker.” In other words, you are supplying an abundance of positive attention and tangibles and you are not just associated with high demands and difficult transitions. You want to create a situation where your students enjoy you and are motivated to work for you! 

Learn to involve your student and partner with them in the learning. Take the time to explain tasks to students – “we are working on identifying coins so that you can use the school vending machines.” Many times teachers just expect students to comply with mundane tasks without explaining why the task is important. Research has shown that students with significant cognitive delays understand much more than they can express, so err on the side of competence when trying to evaluate their understanding. 

And by all means, make learning fun! 

Teach the Schedule and Classroom Rules

You have probably already begun this work. It is critical to remember that building a schedule is only part of the job. You must teach the student how to follow their schedule and work towards independence. You will also need to schedule time with classroom staff (maybe just five minutes at the end of the day) to review and see how the schedule and student is doing. You may have to tweak the schedule and routine.

Establish a Communication Method with Parents and Decide on a Frequency

A team approach is the best approach! Often a communication folder that goes back and forth from school to home is helpful. Encourage open lines of communication. If parents know what is happening at school, they can extend upon it at home. If you know what is happening at home, (for example, the student didn’t sleep, is constipated, etc.) you can better anticipate how to plan your day. Remember, when you are communicating with parents – keep it positive. This is a tool to share success and build relationship. If you have something of concern to report, end with a positive statement. Also, remember to just state facts and leave judgment or feeling words out of it.


You wouldn’t say “Bert was being stubborn and would not get off the computer when it was time. I asked him repeatedly and then he threw a fit.” You might instead say, “Bert had difficulty transitioning from the computer today, but he was able to turn it around in 5 minutes. This is an improvement of 10 minutes from yesterday.” 

Provide Student Support

If you welcomed new students this year, you’re probably beginning to get to know their personality and needs this month. One of the most important parts of adapting instruction in a special needs classroom is learning how to scaffold your level of support. Learn more about cueing and prompting in the Prompting course.



Discover the power of prompting in skill acquisition. Learn types, systems, implementation steps, and find resources for effective use.

Establish a Method for Taking Data

You will need to begin to take data. Develop a way to take data on both IEP goals and other activities that may not be written in the IEP but which are a part of instruction in your classroom. Whenever possible, you will incorporate IEP goals in the lessons. To summarize, best practice dictates that you issue IEP progress reports and report card grades for classroom work on a regular basis.

  • Establish a schedule and a method for taking data and train your paraprofessionals on how to take data.
  • As various situations arise, you might also need to take data on behavior. This data helps determine what interventions you might choose and how successful those interventions are at changing the behavior. If strategies are ineffective, you may have to adjust or change interventions.
  • There are many ways to assign grades for classroom work. Remember that the purpose of grades is to demonstrate progress, so make grades meaningful and objective. You may create a rubric and assign point for the number of steps and the level of prompting.


The student below is working on the functional skill of hand washing. The task has been task analyzed and a data sheet has been developed. Please note that task analysis can be performed on functional, as well as academic skills.

Screenshot of an example Task Analysis Data Sheet

Using a Rubric:

Screenshot of a hand washing rubric.

The rubric was created for grading purposes, based on the number of steps and level of independence.


Another way to grade a task analyzed skill with 10 steps:

An example form for grading a task analyzed skill with ten steps
The rubric was created for grading purposes, based on the number of steps alone
Completed form; missed steps are crossed off, correct steps are circled, and the total correct per day is boxed.
Completed Form


You may be grading a skill based on the level of prompting or some other set scale.

7 Scale form example (see downloadable 7 Scale Form)
7 Scale Form
Screenshot, completed 7 scale form with highlighted numbers
A completed 7 Scale Form creates a great visual tool.

Example Possible Legends for 7 Scale Form:

Count of Demonstrated Behavior
  1. Demonstrates target behavior 0-3 times
  2. Demonstrates target behavior 3-5 times
  3. Demonstrates target behavior 5-7 times
  4. Demonstrates target behavior 7-9 times
  5. Demonstrates target behavior 9-11 times
  6. Demonstrates target behavior 11-13 times
  7. Demonstrates target behavior 13+ times
Level of Cue/Prompt Needed
  1. Non-compliance
  2. Physical Assistance Prompt required to complete task
  3. Physical Gesture Cue required to complete task
  4. Pointing Cue required to complete task
  5. Visual Cue required to complete task
  6. Verbal Direct Cue required to complete task
  7. Verbal Indirect Cue required to complete task
  8. Task completed independently

Significant Cognitive Disabilities

7 Scale Form

This data tool provides graphed visual of progress. For more information about collecting data for students with significant cognitive disabilities, view the Monthly Instructional Guides for Students with Complex Access Needs - September Checklist.
View Tool/Template

Create a Student Portfolio

Now is the time to create a student portfolio to begin filing away work samples. You will thank yourself at the end of the year if you kept samples from the beginning of the year and you can see clear evidence of progress.

Writing a Good PLAAFP

When you inevitably go to an Admission, Review and Dismissal (ARD or IEP) meeting, you will be much more prepared if you’ve been thinking about a student’s PLAAFP (Present Levels of Academic Achievement) the entire year. So now’s the time to begin. Use the Resources below to get started.

Significant Cognitive Disabilities, ARD/IEP Supports

IEP Quality and Rigor Rubric

This document guides the development of PLAAFP, goals/objectives, and progress monitoring methods of the individualized education program of students with significant cognitive disabilities.

View Tool/Template

Preparing for STAAR Alternate 2

Start Preparing Early

Even though it seems like a long time before the assessment is due, do not procrastinate. Seek training or answers to any questions that you may have. You may ask your mentor, district testing coordinator or regional Education Service Center Complex Access Network specialist. 

Review the STAAR Alternate 2 Documents from TEA

Review the STAAR Alternate 2 documents from TEA.  Check the site frequently to make sure you are working from the most current information and guidance.

Review the Essence Statements from TEA

Review the Essence Statements that will be assessed in STAAR Alternate 2 for this school year.

Professional Development

Find your statewide support person on our Statewide Contact information page, or view the Texas SPED Support Learning Library to find training opportunities designed for educators of students with significant cognitive disabilities and complex access needs.

Final Thought - Take Time to Build Relationships With Your Students

It’s only September, and you may be feeling like it is a lot, but if you don’t get ahead of yourself and remember to prioritize tasks each month, the year will begin to find its rhythm. September has been about teaching expectations, procedures and schedules. You’re creating activities and collecting data, and you are gathering information for upcoming ARD meetings. Remember to take time to build relationships with your students. 

In an article by Evantheia Schibsted titled, How to Develop Positive Classroom Management, (May 13, 2009), the author discusses the importance of “positive approaches that emphasize social and emotional learning over punitive discipline”. The article lists several strategies you can use to support a peaceful classroom. Although the strategies may need to be accommodated for special needs students, the need for a peaceful learning environment is universal, and you may find the strategies listed to create this environment helpful.

Keep up the good work and let your regional ESC specialist know if you have any questions.