I was raised in a type A family who all prided themselves for being successful and productive. At the tender age of 13, my family decided I needed to attend a goal setting camp. It was four days and off I went. When i got there I was sad to learn I was the youngest person at the “camp.” Turns out the next youngest was 18. Needless to say, I am very adept at setting goals and planning for the future. What does this have to do with autism? Well actually a lot! Turns out with special needs kids there is a lot more details and parts of their life that must be managed. By setting goals and being intentional we have a better chance of making sure our kids hit their mile stones and reach the top of their potential, no matter what that is!
I take calls from families who are needing help with employment and transition services. What always surprises me is the age of the child when the family calls. The usual age is 18 and sometimes significantly older. These families are desperate and panicked. They suddenly look around and realize their child is an adult and they have no plan in place. This is why goal setting is important. As Steven Covey said, we must “begin with the end in mind.” When our child is small we must imagine what kind of life they are capable of and help them take baby steps to reach that potential. This is especially important with special needs kids because they do not acquire skills as easily as neuro-typical children. There are times where a life skill will actually take a much longer time to acquire and sometimes not at all. We need to help our kids strive for their best but also plan for what we think they will be able to achieve. By the time our kids are 14 we should be working towards a life plan.
My husband and I meet once a year and discuss our goals for our son. We have been doing this since he was 3 and started special needs preschool. Our goal was for him to be mainstreamed by kindergarten. That did not happen right on time but it did happen. Every year we have had to adjust our goals based on our son’s abilities and interests. We set yearly goals for education, social, medical, and experiences. We also have five long term goals for him. I am always surprised how many goals Mark achieves and how the act of writing intentions down is so powerful.
We also have our son set his own goals. At first, he set fun goals like trying new food, seeing a movie or building a Lego creation. Now his goals are more competitive and productive because he is older and more mature. This last year his goal was to make it to the National Vex Robotics competition and he not only accomplished this but made it all the way to the World Vex Robotics competition and placed 16 in the world. Learning to set goals is a very important life skill.
Setting Goals for our children force us to look at their gifts and their issues. It helps us build up their skills and develop a plan for their weaknesses. It makes us more intentional in what we do, what therapies we spend time on and what treatments and activities we invest in. Doing this has helped our family prioritize and plan for this year, the next and for the next ten years.
This is so important that Autism Society of Greater Phoenix is offering a free class on goal setting at our next North Valley Autism Society Meeting. The North Valley Autism Society Meeting is on September 19th from 6:30-8:00 PM at Paradise Valley Community Center. We normally charge $10 for this class but are waiving the fee for this event. Our meetings are always free and everyone is welcome. You will have fun and walk away with the tools and information to set goals for your special needs child, your other children and yourself. If you are interested in attending the class please RSVP to me at email@example.com. If you have questions please call 480-940-1093.