This blog was originally published on Milestones Autism Resources Blog and is re-posted with permission. You can check out the original blog here.
As families look to the year ahead, it is natural to ask yourself how you can better ensure a more productive and positive year for your loved one on the spectrum. Teen and Adult Coordinator Haley Dunn knows the feeling, and has answered some common questions she gets this time of year as parents assess their goals for the new year.
1) How do I write a new goal?
Think about goals for yourself or your loved one in multiple settings- home, school, career and personal. Pick a few things you would like to work on in each setting. Set goals that are short and long-term to help you feel accomplished as you progress through your list.
If you are a student writing academic goals or social goals, it can be helpful for you to focus on something personal. Goals that you really want to accomplish are more likely to come to fruition versus a goal someone sets for you.
Academic goal examples:
– Improving math test scores by studying an extra hour per week
– Improving spelling ability by writing the word an extra 3 times more than the homework states
Social goal examples:
– I will sit with a new person this month and ask them a question about their interests
– I will go out to a school social event this year.
2) Why is it important to write down my goals?
If you are seeing your goals on a regular basis you are more likely to continue to work towards them. So write them down and put them somewhere where you can see them! Type out the goals and post them in common areas of your home. Use a journal that you carry with you. Make a dream board that you put in your room with pictures and quotes that inspire you as you work toward your goal.
How you write the goal is equally important in setting an encouraging tone and putting yourself in the right mind set to start working. Use phrases such as, “I will improve” versus “Stop making mistakes.”
3) What else can I do to stay on track?
Now that you have your goals, it is important to check in with your progress on a set time schedule. Consider purchasing a planner or using an app on your phone to keep track. Breaking down large goals into smaller tasks with easier deadlines will give you a sense of pride and keep you focused.
4) What if I have a really big goal?
Set goals that are short and long term to help you feel accomplished as you progress through your list on your way to a big goal. Think about the smaller steps it will take to reach the final goal. Make sure the goal is SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
When you have a really big goal, such as, “I want to go to college,” you need to break it down in to small steps. You may want to start with focusing on grades or thinking about future careers- begin to narrow down what it means to go to college and what you need to accomplish in high school to get there. A guidance counselor or family member are good supports for a big goal like this.
5) I have a lot of goals. Where do I even begin?
If you have several goals, give each a priority. This helps avoid feeling overwhelmed and helps you focus attention to the most important goals. Writing out “first, then” statements can help sort out what steps take priority in reaching a goal. Setting priorities will help create the road map to where you want to go and how you plan to get there.
6) People tell me I should find an accountability partner. What will this person need to do?
Firstly, you must spell out your goals and confirm that they are clear on what you need to accomplish. Agree on a schedule together for how often you want them to check in with you and stick to it. Secondly, ask them to hold you to your word, celebrate the small victories with you, and to ask questions when they aren’t sure of how to help in a situation.
7) What do we do if we don’t meet our goal by the deadline we set?
Whether you make a mistake or encounter an obstacle along the way, you can overcome it! Reevaluate what you have accomplished, how you want to move forward and if you need to break down the steps even smaller. Remember, goals take time and as long as you are working as a team and learning from mistakes, a brighter future is ahead.
8) What do I do when my child reaches a goal we have worked on together?
CELEBRATE! And then write another one! Having something to continually work for improves overall positive feelings about oneself- especially when a goal has been accomplished.
About the Author
Haley Dunn works with individuals with ASD to help them transition to adulthood. She has experience working with individuals with developmental disabilities and ASD to transition from school to work, as well as providing mental health counseling services. Haley has a deep passion for connecting people to their community, whether it is through employment, volunteering, or life enrichment activities.