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.
Need help creating goals for yourself or your loved one? Need resources to help you meet those goals? Message our team through Facebook, or call Milestones’ free Helpdesk at (216) 464-7600.
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.
Wondering how to get through the holidays? You’re not alone. Many families with a loved one on the spectrum feel overwhelmed this time of year and contact Milestones for some extra support. Below, Program Director Beth Thompson answers some of the most common questions we hear during the holiday season.
What can I do to make traveling easier for my loved one?
Milestones has compiled tips for you to ensure that your travel for a vacation or family gathering starts and ends on a positive note. Read the Milestones Travel Tips Toolkit for ways to make your flights successful! When possible, have your loved one visit the airport and go through a “mock run”. Also, check to see if there are school groups or organizations like Wings for Autism in your area who can help your family with this.
How do I make my home welcoming for loved ones with autism?
Reference our “How to Make a Place Welcoming” quick tips! Don’t be afraid to the teen or adult or their parent how to make gatherings better for them. They will be grateful you asked instead of assumed.
How do I encourage my child to come out of their room to spend time with family?
Make a contract with them and negotiate when and how long you would like them to participate with the family. Assure them you are not trying to take away all their downtime or screen time. The pleasantries and increased social expectations of the holidays may be lost to our loved one or may not matter to them at all. That’s okay – use what does matter to them (another ten minutes on their video game) to motivate them to join you at the dinner table.
There is so much to do this month – how will my family juggle it all?
Take time to prioritize what’s really important to you and your family during the holiday season. If getting a picture with Santa is important enough to struggle through a possible meltdown, make that the goal and support your child with visual supports, reinforcements, and social stories to help them reach that goal. If having your child sit down as part of the family meal or service is the top priority, make a plan to help your child understand the schedule and provide their favorite reinforcers through the activity.
How do I ensure my child’s caregiver enjoys their holiday season?
Make sure you are planning a break for everyone, including YOU! Your child’s teacher and therapist get a winter break – do you or your child’s other supports, like your partner or their siblings, get a break too? Even if it’s 20 minutes of secluded ice cream time after dinner, make sure you are taking breaks for yourself. If you need more in-home support to get your break, reach out to Milestones to get referrals for respite providers or aides. Remember, you do not have to go it alone.
I am worried my child will get restless during downtime. How do I help my child enjoy their winter break? Make a plan to keep your loved one engaged while on break. Schedule a few specific activities that they will enjoy – a trip to see sensory-friendly Santa, a ride on the Cuyahoga Valley train, a trip to the zoo – these activities will help your child remain excited and motivated to work towards their desired activities (find autism friendly events here).
How should I deal with friends or relatives who don’t know my loved one is on the spectrum?
People may have questions about how to best interact with them. Relieve their concerns and give them this Milestones cheat-sheet on how to be a friend or relative to someone on the spectrum.
As always, you can email, message our team through Facebook, or call Milestones’ free Helpdesk at (216) 464-7600 if you need further guidance.
On the forefront of transition and adult services, Beth Thompson is Milestones’ Program Director. Beth has a Master’s degree coupled with extensive hands-on experience working with high school students with autism. Whether students are college or career bound, Beth is instrumental in helping teens successfully transition to adulthood.
Among the hundreds of ways Milestones provides support to families and individuals with ASD, our free Helpdesk is perhaps the best way to start. Our knowledgeable team features over 63 years of combined experience in the fields of Early Childhood & Special Education, Mental Health Counseling, Behavioral Intervention, Social Work and Coaching.
Our Helpdesk team includes Milestones Program Director Beth Thompson, Social Worker Helena Farkas, Teen & Adult Coordinator Haley Dunn and Coaching & Referral Specialist Monica Chukayne.
“The Milestones team’s persistence in gathering data and communicating with the district is inspiring me not to give up on my children’s needs as their skills are improving after these long and painful processes,” says parent Grace Lin-Fadel. “It is worthy to keep going after seeing the benefits for our children. I am lucky to know and learn from Milestones. I thank them for sharing their experience.”
Get to know the hard-working individuals who can help you get connected to schools, camps, tutors, doctors, therapists, support groups and more.
Beth Thompson, MSSA, LSW; Program Director
Whether students are college or career bound, Beth is instrumental in helping teens successfully transition to adulthood. She received her Master’s degree from Case Western Reserve University’s Morton, Jack and Joseph School of Social Sciences in Community Development and has extensive hands-on experience working with transition-aged students with autism. Beth’s favorite part of her job is when she can assist a young person in finding and developing their unique talents.
Helena Farkas, LISW-S; Social Worker
Before coming to Milestones, Helena worked extensively with the special needs population as a social worker at Metro Health Medical Center, where she helped families navigate the medical and community systems. At Milestones, Helena has coached families, individuals and professionals to access the multiple resources that promote education, health and independence. Her favorite quote: “If families are given enough time and information, they will make the right decision.”
Haley Dunn, MA, LPC; Teen & Adult Coordinator
Haley assists individuals crossing the bridge from school into the adult world. She is also has experience providing mental health counseling services to all age groups. She has a deep passion for connecting people to their community to live out their fullest life. The best part of her work is when individuals are able to become an advocate for themselves in order to be as successful as possible in their education, work, community and independent living.
Monica Chukayne, Coaching & Referral Specialist
Monica is dedicated to ensuring the success of those with autism and special needs reach their full potential and helping them to achieve lifelong success from birth to adulthood. As an Educator and Intervention Specialist she has a wide range of experience working directly with individuals with mild to intensive needs. She could not imagine a more rewarding and impactful vocation. Her favorite quote: “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.” -Albert Einstein
This website was made possible by the generosity of Lois Joan Davis and grants from the William J. & Dorothy K. O'Neill Foundation and the David and Robert Stein Family Foundation, a supporting foundation of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland.