As parents of children on the Autism spectrum, we often spend our days moving from what we perceive as one crisis to another.
As this happens, we sometimes lose sight of the need to take a step back and ask ourselves where we want to go in life, how can we best help our children and how will we get there.
This time of year is usually the time for new beginnings or resolutions. However, as all the research shows these good intentions rarely last beyond the middle of January. This is because habits are hard to break. Even the best intentions are cast aside in the routine and rush of everyday life.
I personally have no time for resolutions, but passionately believe in the power of goal setting and I'd like to share with you some of the goals I have agreed with my children for 2023. I'd also like to pass on some tips on how you can set your own goals for yourself and your family.
I have 4 goals for my two boys in 2023, these are:
- I will help each of my boys meet one new friend in 2023
- I will help my boys identify and enjoy a new lasting hobby in 2023
- I will set aside a specific time each week for interaction with each boy to connect with them and help them develop their social skills
- I will continue to advocate and fight for the services I know my boys need and are legally entitled to. I will not give up!
These may seem straightforward goals, but as any parent of a child on the autism spectrum will testify even the simplest things can be difficult.
While it's natural for parents to want their children to overcome or outgrow their autism, the reality is that autism is a lifelong diagnosis. Many people with autism may develop strong skills in many areas, but they will still be autistic and will have at least some of the symptoms associated with the diagnosis. I find that with goal setting I can focus my mind and identify the things that will make the biggest impact for them now and as they grow older.
As the parent of a child with additional needs, you probably spend a great deal of time advocating for and thinking on behalf of your child. However, when it comes to setting goals, though, it's your child's strengths, interests, abilities, and preferences that should count the most.
So if you think goal setting could help you and your children, here are some tips to make achieving these goals a lot easier.
I would like to share with you a simple tool that I have used over the years to identify and write down my own goals.
- Write down what you want to achieve for yourself and your family, and make it as descriptive as you can so you can explain it to others and share your goals. Involve your child and ask them what they want to achieve and how you can help them do this.
- Be honest with yourself, describe why you and they want to achieve this goal. What is your motivation and what benefits will it bring to your child and their life?
- Outline the path you have to walk to achieve this goal. Being honest about where you start from and the destination you seek can be powerful to identify the next step and all the activities needed to complete this goal.
- Detail each action you need to make; this becomes your plan.
- We should never be afraid to seek help in achieving our goals, so identify who can assist and support you.
- A goal without a deadline is just a dream, so always be honest with yourself and write down when you want to achieve this goal.
- The final thing is to create a contract with yourself, you do this by signing your goals and making a commitment to the plan you have created for you and your child.
Finally, here is a template you could print off and use to create goals for you and your family in 2023:
What is the specific goal that you want to achieve?
Why do you want to achieve this goal?
Where are you currently starting from as it relates to this goal?
How will you achieve this goal? List each individual action step and deadline.
Who will be involved in helping you achieve this goal? Identify their specific role.
When will you achieve this goal? Identify a specific date and sign the goal
I wish you all success in 2023 and hope that this simple goal template can help take your family in a positive direction.
Good luck and I look forward to sharing ideas with you on IrishCentral in the year ahead.
*John Joe McGinley is the father of four boys, two of whom are on the autism spectrum. To support other parents, he runs AutismDad.ie and his latest blog looks at how parents can create goals for 2023 to help not only their children but the whole family.
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