Autism: Setting S.M.A.R.T Goals for the New Year

One day I reflected on the day’s blessing, and it sparked my thoughts to my next blog: GOALS — Goals for the NEW YEAR!

That day I had no camera to take any pictures, so the picture you see is from another day. That day only marked a shadow of what I truly experienced with my son, Adam. I had made a goal for him to walk five blocks. Did he wanted to complete this? No! He would walk a few steps, then ask to go back home. With much encouragement to do “all things through Christ who strengthens us,” I got him up and led him along. Although he had some whining that came along for the walk, we managed to reach our five-block goal and back. He even became calm when I said to him, before we got almost to the end of one block, “Ok, let’s count how many foot-spans from where we are to the sign post.” So, he counted with me. He even started counted instead of whining. 

So, when we returned, I told him, “Thank you for saving me from having to call the Whaaaa-mbulance!” 🙂 He smiled! 

We all have goals, but as a mom with a much more challenged child, what can you do? When it comes to creating goals for kids with autism, it can be overwhelming knowing where to start. What goals do you set out? When should they meet their goals? How can everyone work on it together? In researching, I have discovered some things that can help, and here they are.  

 

Rest assured, creating an effective goal is as simple as making sure it is a SMART goal: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Here are simple guidelines that may help your child achieve the goals you set in place. 

Specific: It is easy to have a general goal in mind for kids with autism, such as increasing their language or self-help skills. However, general goals are hard to work on since they do not have specific behaviors that you are looking to increase. Being as specific as possible with your goal is the most effective way to ensure your child will meet their goal. 

MeasurableWhen we create a goal, we have to make sure we can measure a child’s success. If our goal isn’t measurable, we cannot accurately determine if the goal was met. The two most common ways to make goals measurable are frequency (e.g. three times per day, etc.) and accuracy (e.g. with 80% success, in four out of five opportunities, etc.). 

Attainable: Before we start working on a goal, we have to make sure it is something the child can attain, a goal they can achieve. We need to look at prerequisite skills (i.e. skills the child needs in order to achieve the current  goal). We also need to look at how realistic our goal is. We cannot expect a child to get dressed by themselves each morning if their underwear drawer is too high for them to reach. 

Relevant: Relevant goals are goals that will make a difference in the child’s life. If the goal isn’t relevant to the child, the child will not be motivated to achieve it. If a goal is determined to not be relevant to the child or the one helping teach the goal, it will need to be adjusted to become relevant. 

Time-bound: If all goals had an eternity to be achieved, there would not be a desire to teach and attain the goal in the near future. Making goals time bound ensure that the goal is mastered in a realistic time frame. Determining the timeframe of your goal should be dependent on the goal. The more challenging the goal, the longer the timeframe should be. 

Example of a SMART Goal

Your goal is to work on your child being willing to ask you for help when you are in another room. At this time, your child does not ask you for help when you are in the same room consistently. Let’s go through each criterion to make our SMART goal. 

  • Specific: Child will say “help me” while handing the object they need help with to the adult. 
  • Measurable: Four out of five opportunities. 
  • Attainable: We will first work on a situation where an adult is in the same room. 
  • Relevant: Your child frequently needs help when playing with new toys or opening and sealing food. 
  • Time-bound: Two weeks. 

As I look back at last year, I can rejoicingly say that Adam has been more specific in asking Mom and Dad for help. He has even recently asked for help — to be seen by his pediatrician — because one of his ears was hurting.  

The goals that I’ve set out for Adam this year are…. 

Specific:
  • Adam will continue to learn how to pray in the mornings by himself, with his sister, and with parents;
  • learn how to tie his shoes and sneakers;
  • learn how to make a meal;
  • do more house chores;
  • read more; and
  • memorize scripture, songs and specific hymns.  

Measurable: Four out of five opportunities. 

Attainable: We will work when adults and sister are in the same room. 

Relevant: Adam will need help when learning a new song or scripture song. He will need help when he can’t remember the steps to tie his sneakers. He will need help in knowing measurement when learning a recipe. He will need help in knowing where to clean and what to clean with. He will need help with words he does not recognize or is unable to pronounce.  

Products We Use

In order for my son to successfully work with me, I would like to share some products that my husband and I have been using and will continue to use, for we know that healing is a long process, especially when it comes to the mind, along with much prayer, patience, communication, etc.  

 

These two products we got at our local health food store. I put one tbsp of the flax oil, and one cap of the Added Attention in his orange juice. The flax oil has a different flavor that tastes like yogurt. We’ve had positive results with these two, especially the Added Attention.

Lavender oil I apply for his anxiety, in the tub, a dab behind his ears, and on his feet; and, sometimes I use the rolling pin as a relaxing sensory tool, which he loves. Sometimes his sister comes asking for rolling for her back and legs. As I am doing it, I am easing their minds with a playlist of music or talking to them in a playful matter.

This one we are just now using. Don’t really like the taste, but we are trying it out.

This one I like, although we have finished the bottle.

No matter what your goals are for your child, and what products you would like to use to accompany the work ahead, I wish for you GREAT accomplishment! Keep pressing on to “Higher Ground”! 

Angie Denis
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I am wife to a loving husband, and mother to two lovely children, a son and daughter, and I love homeschooling.

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