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Steven A. Greenburg, Education Law
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What types of goals are effective for a child with special needs?

Achieving goals is critical for any child, whether they excel at school or need some extra help. Effective goal-setting along with adequate support from teachers and other educational workers can help a child find success, so it is important for parents to play an active role in helping set goals for their child.

While help from parents is beneficial for all children, it can be particularly critical for children with special needs. Oftentimes, parents are the most vocal -- or only -- advocate for these students. If you have a child with special educational needs, then it can be helpful to know how you can assist with effective goal-setting.

Setting the goals

As a general guide, annual educational goals for your child should be SMART. As explained in an Understood.org article, SMART goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Results-oriented
  • Time-bound

When you look at your child's academic capabilities and challenges, think carefully about each goal with regard to these guidelines. If any seem impossible, unnecessary or ineffective, consider revising or removing them from your child's IEP plan. 

You want to be sure that the goals for your child serve a purpose and can deliver value to his or her educational pursuits. 

Addressing setbacks

There are situations in which a child does not achieve his or her goals. This can be disappointing but you can address a missed goal by looking at what can be done in the next year to change the outcome. You might need to adjust expectations or discuss additional resources with the school.

It might also be possible that your child is set up for failure because he or she is not receiving appropriate educational services. You might also learn that an IEP is not being properly implemented. In such situations, you can work with an attorney to file a compliance complaint or pursue a disciplinary hearing.

Celebrating achievements

Do not overlook the importance of celebrating your child's achievements. Oftentimes, parents and educators are so focused on helping a child continue to reach goals that they forget to celebrate the progress. Celebrating your child with your child can build confidence and keep children motivated as they tackle the next goal in front of them.

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