There is a lot of discussion about goal setting in the air.
The start of the year often brings new educators and health professionals into your child’s tribe. For parents, there is anxiety as to how long it will take for the new team members to ‘get to know’ their child, set goals and kick the real learning program into place. These topics are certainly arising during my family service coaching conversations. Whilst I have blogged about goals in the past, Who’s goal is it anyway? (Feb 2015) I thought it would be good to revisit.
In my recently published book, ‘Becoming Chief how to lead your child’s special needs tribe‘, I write quite several pages about goals setting. “For children with a disability, goals can help sharpen the focus of what needs to be done, who needs to do it, by when and why”. They are like a road map that keeps the whole team moving forward in the same direction using consistent strategies.
Goals setting works best when it is a collaborative conversation. Sitting around the table will be parents, educators and therapists, discussing the skills they suggest the child develop, the priority order and who owns each goal. Tools that help the goals setting process may include ‘The Family Goals Setting Tool’, mindmapping, or taking ‘a day in the life of’ approach to the child’s needs.
The strategies of how to kick the goals comes next.
From my conversations, it seems that not many parents, educators and service providers are brave enough to write up real measurable goals. We all know the sort of goals we should be writing, they are S.M.A.R.T. goals. The acronym generally stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time bound. Admittedly, there are a few variations of this acronym but the gist is similar. However …
Here is a new one to think about … S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goals, these are S.M.A.R.T goals that are Evaluated and Reviewed. This provides a good reminder that your child’s tribe needs to review the child’s goals, use them as the basis of team discussions, measure progress towards each goal and well … evaluate and review. I suspect that many goals are written at the start of programmes and then filed, never to be seen again. There is no point writing goals just for the sake of it.
Let’s make the next set of goals for your child SMARTER.
Try not to mix up goals and strategies. I have seen many, many Individual Learning Plans both in school and early intervention settings. I have to say many of them are very vague and there is often a confusing muddle of goals and strategies.
Goals are what you want your child to achieve.
Strategies are what the adult tribe will do to reach them.
The value of well written goals is multifaceted. It will determine who makes up the child’s current team and the frequency and intensity of their educational and therapy service provision. The child’s programme is focused and strategy clash minimised. The goal document anchors team discussions and ensures that the team are all pulling in the same agreed direction. They also provide a line in the sand, a point from which progress can be measured. And as the acronym suggests, remember to Evaluate and Review. Kick off the goal setting conversation and take the challenge of writing even S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goals for your child this year.
You are welcome to drop me a line if you think I can help organise your child’s program. Perhaps you’d like to take advantage of the free 30 minutes coaching consult. Here is my email firstname.lastname@example.org