Goals. As health professionals we throw this word around all the time. We set goals with our clients, talk about them with teachers and health professionals. We plan our sessions in relation to these goals, we constantly review and evaluate them too.
It is safe to say we use the term so much, that sometimes we might forget that YOU and your family might not. It is like we become desensitised to the word.
“Let’s set some goals” you hear us chirpily suggest in feedback meetings or prior to therapy sessions commencing.
But what does this actually mean??
A goal in sport is obvious, you can clearly explain what needs to happen (ie ball in hoop) and is therefore very obvious once it is achieved. It is usually black and white.
Therefore when a therapist asks you what your goals are for your children’s therapy.. It can be difficult to say. Especially if your child is experiencing difficulties in many areas. Not to mention, how do you know what is possible for your child to achive? And in what time frame? How can you set a goal around your child’s social difficulties? Or their inability to organise themselves?
Well the first part that is important to remember.. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. We are here to help you.
We are hear to listen.
A common question we often ask to get the conversation started is, “What area or task is having the biggest impact on you or your child’s day- what is taking the longest, what is causing the most arguments, the most heightened emotions?” Once we have this general area we can work together (and no doubt ask you a whole lot more questions!) to make a more specific goal that is achievable and will make your and your child’s life a little bit easier.
We then break down these goals into small micro-steps. So you and your child can experience success, which in turns builds momentum.
So stop and think.. What is having the biggest impact on you and your child’s day? What do you find the most difficult to manage and assist them with? For some families it might be getting their child dressed, for others it might be toilet training.
It doesn’t stop there.. we then want to work out which areas to REALLY focus on. Sometimes many issues pop up during these conversations. This is why we might ask you to rate;
1) How important this goal is to you
2) How well do they currently perform this activity
3) How satisfied are you with this performance
This might seem like a lot of questions. It is a lot of questions!
But these are great because sometimes you might think, “Ahh my Mother’s cousins best friend told me Johnny can’t do his shoelaces. I need him to be able to do this”. Then we ask you, how important is this to you? And it strikes you.. “It is not important to me at all.. I’m more concerned about his social skills”. A very important realisation.
But wait.. As much as we appreciate and value your opinion it is important we check in with other people involved in your child’s life (teachers, health professionals, other careers, and if appropriate the child in question!). This is not because we don’t believe you, it is because we need to gain a thorough understanding of your child’s situation and we aim to do this by getting as many perspectives as possible.
What and when am I aiming for?
We find it useful to think of goals as either long term or short term. Long term goals are often easier to set. “Johnny to make a friend”.. “Johnny to write his name neatly”. Our job is to find the short term goal, the achievable and realistic goal. So in order for Johnny to write his name.. Can he hold and control a pencil? Can he copy shapes? Can he recognise his name? Can he write a J? Maybe he can write his whole name but it is hard to read.
How will I know I have achieved it?
Sometimes this will be obvious. For example, Johnny will indeed write his name clearly and neatly. But what about the grey areas? Behaviour, emotions, social skills often fall here. This is why it is so important you speak to your therapist- we can help you find these micro steps in between the “big picture” goals. You will then discuss this progress with your therapist and either set new goals, or possibly break from services.
Finally it should also be noted that we as a society are incredibly goal orientated. We praise results, rarely effort. PLEASE praise your child for the efforts you notice, and when they achieve the goal you do not necessarily need to adjust this language, “Ahhh you tried so hard..!!!”
Make it about the effort and not always about the result.
Set your goals. Work hard. Reach them and repeat.
Until next time,