Milestones National Autism Conference

Straight From the Source – The Importance of Making SMART Goals

As I consider making goals, whether for the whole year of 2018 or just for upcoming situations I know will be challenging, I utilize a pattern I learned in my first semester of college. This strategy may be familiar to you too. It’s called making “SMART” goals, which is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.

Using this strategy has helped me find success in areas where I truly want to make changes or grow personally. In the past when I was not realistic, I would make goals that were far too grandiose which resulted in my giving up easily, and being unable to actually see any progress. Now I concentrate on smaller but attainable changes, and once I reach them I push the goals out further. I also set only one or two goals at a time in order to keep my focus.

For example, I struggle with asking repetitive, anxiety-provoked questions of others. Instead of setting a goal like, “I will stop asking repetitive questions,” I set a SMART goal. Applying the SMART strategy to the goal would look like this:

S (specific): I will reduce my repetitive, anxiety-provoked questions at home. I will enlist the help of a family member to give me cues when needed and keep me accountable to my goal. I will reduce the questions to two times each.

M (measurable): Because I am using a family member to keep me gently accountable, it will be easy to see if I am actually restricting my repetitive questions to two times each. This means “check-ins” are automatically built into this particular goal.

A (attainable): This goal should be attainable for me because I have set it up for success. As long as I continue to be open to my accountability partner’s cues and respond appropriately, I will find success in reducing the number of times I repeat a question, even when I am anxious.

R (realistic): My goal is realistic because I have been working on this particular behavior for some time. Engaging another person to work on it with me will also keep me on task.

T (timely): I will set this goal to be accomplished in 30 days. I review the results of my strategies with my accountability partner at that time. If I am consistently reducing my repetitive, anxiety-provoked questions to two times each or less I will consider the goal achieved, and set a new goal. If I have not achieved the goal as set, then I will modify the goal at that time or lengthen the time frame in which to attain it.

Each person knows what works best for him or her. This is the kind of goal setting that works for me.  One thing to keep in mind is that goals can always be modified to ensure success. I stay positive knowing that I can modify a goal as necessary rather than give in to defeat.


Grace Blatt is a Good Life Ambassador for the Cuyahoga County Board of Development Disabilities where she presents to schools, legislators, families, and provider agencies advocating for those with special needs. She is also a past Milestones Trailblazer Award recipient and is currently pursuing a degree in music therapy.




My Milestones: Past Conference Speaker & Exhibitor, Amanda Buzo

Amanda Buzo was a young lawyer starting her career in special needs estate planning when she first heard about Milestones.

In her interactions with clients, she kept coming across the organization’s name.

“Amazing resources! Invaluable tools! You have to go to the conference!”  her clients would tell her. Wanting to find out more, Amanda attended her first Milestones conference and was blown away.

“It was such a phenomenal event,” she says. “The environment was so positive and everyone was supportive of each other. It was very inspiring.”

Tell us about your first experience with Milestones.

I was an exhibitor at my very first conference in 2015. As an exhibitor, you’re on your feet all day and it can be very tiring. But the Milestones staff was very attentive and supportive, making sure we were comfortable and had everything we needed to make our experience a success.

Lauren (Daughtrey) introduced me to a board member and helped me make connections with the professional community. Milestones went out of their way to connect me, and as a result, I developed a lot of relationships with fellow exhibitors, conference attendees and the community. I had such a good experience that I wanted to be more involved.

How has Milestones helped you professionally?

Working with Milestones has given the Community Fund Management Foundation credibility and a seat at the table.

You are executive director at Community Fund Management Foundation. Tell us more about your organization.

We are a non-profit that establishes trusts for individuals with disabilities with money provided by the individuals or their families. We help families provide for a person’s needs in a way that helps safeguard their loved one’s eligibility for government benefits like Medicaid. We have 2,200 trusts in 82 of 88 counties in Ohio, which amount to about $93 million in assets. We have one of the largest pooled trusts in the US.

Your relationship with Milestones has evolved over the years. You are now a speaker, exhibitor and donor. Tell us more about your contributions.

I love having the opportunity to reach individuals and families. As a special needs estate planning attorney and as a parent, you’re always seeking out information. I want to make the information readable and something that families can digest. I love all the ways Milestones helps us educate the community.

I did a co-presentation at the conference about STABLE accounts, which are accounts for individuals with disabilities that are generally not counted as a resource when determining Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income eligibility. It was a great opportunity to help equip families and help them make informed decisions for their future.

How has Milestones helped you personally?

Though I don’t have a personal connection to autism, as a parent of a young child, I am always looking for the best information and recommendations from experts. Milestones has a vast number of resources on their website. And the network of professionals, teachers, therapists and doctors that they have is truly exceptional.

Also, I think Milestones has done a wonderful job in helping families connect, to not feel alone, and to know there are others walking that journey with you. And so many inspiring stories! I’m always in awe of what other families have accomplished and overcome. I can apply those lessons to my own life.

Why is Milestones important to the community?

Milestones makes itself relevant to the community. For one, it has an amazing website. The resources, tools and networks- I think everything that they’ve done behind the scenes is and their desire to help families is incredible.

What advice would you give someone about Milestones?

I would tell them to contact Milestones because they follow through. I was talking recently with a young mother of twins. One of her children had been diagnosed with autism so I told her about the Milestones conference. She lived about an hour from Cleveland, but I encouraged her to attend. She wasn’t aware of the organization but after I told her about it she was excited to find out more.

What do you see for the future?

I look forward to continuing our involvement with Milestones at the next conference. It’s a fabulous organization with a strong purpose and mission. We have some exciting ideas for 2018. I see us continuing to support the organization in perpetuity.