Last year I was sent to Self-Determination (ones ability to make choices and control their own life) for Students with Disabilities training. The presenter discussed how it’s never to soon to ask your child (with or without disabilities) what their goals are and help them create a plan to get there.
Your 3 year old wants to learn to make their snacks? Great! Sit down and create a plan with them. Identify the skills they need to make this happen and help them achieve their goal.
Your 10-year-old thinks he (or she!) would like to be a car mechanic? Awesome! Show them how to research what it takes to be a mechanic, look up the skills needed, help him (or her) identify age-appropriate short term goals (completing homework independently, for example) that will help propel them towards the future they’ve envisioned.
I loved the idea of students/kids creating a goal plan and began brainstorming how I was going to incorporate this into Social Skills. And the Goals Wall was born.
At the beginning of the year, each of my students fills out a Goal Sheet. I’ve gotten every kind of goal from “living on my own” to “catching every football game” to “learn to bowl”. We hang these goals on the wall so we can reference them throughout the year. Some goals get achieved, some goals get revised, some goals get carried over into the next year. New goals get made.
The Goals Wall started as a way to get students to think about their future, but it quickly began morphing into something else. Students would come in and look at their goals, we would have discussions about what skills that goal would take, and students began using their goals to analyze their own behavior. Often I can redirect behavior with “Is this in line with your goal?”
Allowing students to set their own goals, and teaching them to recognize behaviors that propel them towards (or away) from their goal has been a powerful thing.
For more information on Self-Determination and Goal Setting:
National Gateway to Self-Determination
PACERS National Parent Center on Transition and Employment