It’s a new year which causes so many of us to pause for a moment or two to reflect on what we want in our lives. I’ve been fortunate enough to coach teens and adults with autism as well as family members in achieving goals they have set out for themselves. I wanted to give a few observations of what has been helpful for those that were able to move in a positive direction to reach their goals.
Reduce your anxiety. I often see people afraid to take action on their goals because they are simply just overwhelmed by the process. Sometimes there are sensory processing issues that get in the way. Then there are executive functioning challenges that stop others from taking action. Other times, not knowing the expectations is a big hindrance for moving towards one’s goals. A good starting point in reducing these concerns is identifying someone you know and trust and then having a conversation with that person to develop a plan that may reduce your anxiety. It is also okay to allow yourself to take a break on a project – sometimes anxiety comes from feeling the pressure to execute a plan perfectly and at a pace you may not be comfortable with at the present time.
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The New Year is here and with it comes those New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions are the goals we set for ourselves for the upcoming year – try to eat healthier, save more money, make time to get to the gym.
This might also be a good time for families to reflect on what goals they may have for their children with autism. I frequently get asked the question, “Do you see this as something my child can do within one year?” Your child’s educational team also has to make this determination when writing goals for the Individualized Education Program.
In thinking about setting goals, take a page from the IEP guidelines and try to make them SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, results-oriented, and time-bound. Instead of, “I want my child to communicate more with me,” think about what is the most important thing they learn to communicate. Instead of “I want my child to read”, maybe “I want my child to read 10 words, or 20 words,” or whatever makes the most sense.
As with any goal, in order to get somewhere, you have to know where you are at. It’s difficult to measure progress if you don’t have a baseline measurement to know what you are comparing to. Additionally, it’s hard to know whether the teaching you are doing is having the impact you want, without occasionally measuring the progress. That’s why data-driven decisions are so crucial. If you have an idea in your mind about what kind of goal you want to work towards achieving with your son or daughter, stop and take a measurement of what their current skill is in this area.
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