Selecting Appropriate Goals for Your Child

Do you find that you are often at the mercy of your service providers and school staff when it comes to goal selection for your child’s intervention program? Do you usually just allow the professionals to select the goals for your child since you think they know best? If so, it is important for you to know that you should play a key role in selecting goals for your child. You may be working with experts in the field of education and child development; however, you are THE expert when it comes to your child. You have valuable information about your child that must be considered when selecting goals for your child’s intervention program.

When selecting goals, it is important to first make sure that the goals are developmentally appropriate for your child. The term developmentally appropriate means that your child is ready to learn the goals that have been set. Try not to consider age or grade level as your indicator for what is developmentally appropriate for your child. Also, your child may be at very different places developmentally across different domains (communication, social interaction, math, reading, writing, behavior, independent functioning). Thus, to select goals that are developmentally appropriate it is important to first indicate what your child can presently do in any given domain. Then you set goals based on what your child can do presently and what would logically be the next steps. Now, you may need the help of the providers and school staff you are working with to determine your child’s present levels of performance what would be the next steps based on those present levels. However, you certainly have a great deal of information that others do not about your child’s performance across a variety of domains, and this information must be shared. For example, you may be able to tell the team that when it comes to communication your child will grab for something that he or she wants if someone else is holding it. This can lead to a goal for pointing to get desired items as that would logically be the next step for your child.

The second thing to consider when selecting goals for your child is whether or not they are meaningful. Many times goals are selecting because they show up somewhere on a development checklist or are part of an assessment tool used for determining eligibility for services. Sometimes these goals are meaningful and other times they are not. To determine if a goal is meaningful, ask yourself how your child’s life will be improved by learning the specific skill or behavior. You can also ask yourself what are the different settings and situations in which your child will use the specific skill or behavior. If you cannot come up with some quality responses for these two questions, the goal may not be very meaningful for your child. For example, a goal that is common for young children is to imitate two block designs. When your child master’s this skill, will there really be much positive changes in your child’s life? Can your child use this skill across a variety of different settings and situations? Probably not. However, if the goal is that your child will imitate play behaviors of other children that can be quite meaningful. When that goal is achieved, your child will be able to engage in a variety of positive social interactions with peers across settings and situations and develop meaningful relationships.

It is important to consult with a BCBA and your child’s current service providers to work as a team to determine your child’s present levels of performance across a variety of domains and to select goals that are developmentally appropriate and meaningful for your child. You should be an integral part of this team.

 

[box] Article By: Dr. Debra Leach, EdD,BCBA [/box]

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