Special Education Goal Setting Strategies

Tips for Special Education

Before attempting to set any goals in your special education classroom, be sure to assess the situation around you. It is not unheard of for students in special education settings to have guardians who expect little from them. From time to time, guardians tend to see their children not as children, but as their illness. They may even introduce them as "Hello, I'm Ann and this is my autistic daughter Cheryl." Notice that the disorder came before the name. If you haven't experienced this, feel fortunate. It happens all too often.

The guardian may be so focused on the disorder that they lose sight of the child. Don't let that happen to you because the end result is that the child will achieve nothing as they have no challenges put before them. It may be up to you to challenge the child.

When setting goals for those in special education, involve them in the process. Find out what it is they want to accomplish or improve on. Even if the goal is one that may take years to accomplish, it's a place to start and it's something the child will want to be involved in. The next section talks about the specifics of goal setting in special education.

Goal Setting

When setting goals there are three rigid rules to follow.

  1. Make the goal achievable. It's okay to shoot for the stars, but we will discuss more on that later. Once the goal is created, double check to make sure it is achievable, no matter how simple it may be. For example, if you set a goal for a child to learn to swim, is it realistic to achieve the goal within the desired time frame? Or maybe the goal should start with "Sign up for swim classes by Friday."
  2. Make the goal measurable. If you set a goal such as "play nice with others", there is no way to measure that goal. Instead you might try something like "Have no arguments over toys today." This one is very simple to measure. Did they argue over toys? No? Then they accomplished their goal.
  3. Set a time frame. Let them know how long they have to achieve the goal. Does it need to be done by the end of class or by the end of the week?

A great way to start the week is to start with goals. What are the goals for the week? How can the students work on them on a daily basis. It's a good idea to set a goal for the week and then use smaller goals daily to develop the weekly one. For example, a shy student wants to make more friends. That's a very general goal. How about a weekly goal of getting to know 3 things about 3 people. A daily goal to go along with this would be something like introducing self to 2 people today. Obviously you need to get to know someone before you can be friends with them, but before you can get to know them you have to meet them!

Setting the daily goals in the morning gives the students motivation for the day. At the end of the day, go over the goals and discuss whether or not the goals were met. Meeting goals on a daily basis is a wonderful way for these students to feel a sense of accomplishment as well as learning to organize themselves and achieving more than they probably thought they could.