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Sharing a (Special Needs) Goal

It is a question most parents tell me they dread – heck, it makes me anxious and I’m one of the therapists in the room.  “What are your goals for your child?”  It has always struck me as a strange question; our goals for our children tend to be universal – we want them to be healthy and happy. Beyond that it sometimes gets a little blurry. And when I teach continuing education courses for pediatric therapists we often have long talks about goal setting.  If it’s complicated for therapists, I don’t think it’s something we should be expecting parents to do.

As a parent, if you anticipate this question at an upcoming appointment, there could be a different way to frame it.  What if the question was “What would make your child’s day a little easier?”  I’m sure you would have many answers.  Perhaps it would make mornings smoother if she could put on her shoes without melting down.  Maybe he would like to go down the playground slide with his friends. Or she might wish to be able to stand and sing with the school choir.   Communicate your answer to that question to your child’s therapists. Let them work it into a formal goal and together, you can formulate a plan to accomplish it. If goal setting is a team effort, then your child wins every time.


Shelley Mannell is a Physical Therapist in St. Catharines, Canada with 25 years of experience supporting children and families on their journey to independence. You can read about HeartSpace Physical Therapy for Children at or follow Shelley on Facebook at HeartSpacePT or on Twitter @heartspacept.


Be sure to check out site co-founder Julia Roberts’ posts about her daughter and Champerina and about traveling Champ on Build-A-Bear Workshop‘s blog! They are a huge supporter of this special needs community!

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