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Be Clear About the Goals You Have for Your Child

Dr. Kawthar Hameed Abdullah

Ed.D Educational Psychology & Special Education

Where do you see your child as an adult? What do you see them doing? What exactly do you want for your child? How independent do you think your child will be able to be as an adult? What level of education do you see them achieving? Do you think all the goals you have in mind for your child are realistic???

These questions are very important to think about, maybe at this time you don’t want to consider these questions as it’s easier to allow dreams and visions of the future to rule every present interaction, there is a lot to be said for enjoying your child where they are right now as well.

However as you look at your child’s educational plan, look at the type of classroom they’re in and the pace of the instruction they’re receiving, it’s worth thinking about whether it leads to a place that you want your child to go. If not, consult with the IEP team. They may have their own objectives and expectations, and it will benefit you to hear them. Perhaps they will help you see your child the way they do. Or maybe they will help you become aware that you need to communicate more clearly why you see your child differently.

You’ll have to be willing to support those goals with your own time and effort. If you want your child to have a full education, don’t be complaining about homework. If you see your child as being independent one day, work to find different ways to teach organization and life skills. It’s easy to get caught up in the need for help and accommodations, but they should be in the service of getting your child where they need to be, not keeping them where they are at.

Your child’s IEP is chock-full of important sounding goals. These are short-term goals, to be accomplished within the school year. Consider developing some goals of your own for the same period of time, covering things you want your child to accomplish at home or in life. Share your goals with teachers and therapists, because support for that effort may be folded into the work being done at school, just as you support school goals at home.

Consider the pros of doing it:

1. You’ll have something hopeful to work on with your child.

2. Making goals helps you see what needs to be done now and in the future.

3. Goals offer a good opportunity for collaboration with school personnel.

4. Discussing goals with school personnel ensures that you’re all working toward the same ends.

5. You get a sense of accomplishment when goals are met.

Consider the cons of not doing it:

1. I don’t want to stress out my child. So don’t set goals that are too hard. IEP goals are meant to be measurable and practical; make sure the ones you set are as well, and rig them toward your child’s success. If your child is really struggling, take a big goal and break it into tiny steps. Give lots of positive feedback when each step is attained.

2. My child has enough goals at school. Chances are, you have goals at work that need to be met each workday or pay period or year. Yet once you get home, you may still set yourself goals that have to do with things around the household or with your child’s school situation. Different goals for different locales are something that most people set. Your child should be no different. Working for something is a positive experience no matter where you do it.

3. I’m afraid I’ll set my goals too low. What happens when you look toward the future and see not much of one? It’s hard to get motivated to set goals when there’s nothing very appealing waiting at the other end. You want to avoid being overly ambitious and setting your child up for long-term failure, but don’t be afraid of small successes, either. If the far-off vision is too discouraging, set small goals for what your child can do right now, today. You may be surprised how far small steps can take you.

Remember there may be goals that you don’t want to pursue for your child at any given time. For example, independence is a goal that is often stressed in schools, particularly as students move into middle and high school. But for some children with behavioral or developmental special needs, independence granted too early can be dangerous. It may be better to work hard on other goals that lay a better foundation for future independence, but you’ll have to argue that case with the school based on your own experience and research on your child’s disability. Having a safe and successful year is a worthy goal too.

Dr. Kawthar Hameed Abdullah is an educational psychologist and special educational specialist. She holds a Ed.D in both educational psychology and special education. She has over 25 years experience working with children with different educational, intellectual and emotional challenges.

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