Goal Setting with your Child’s Therapist: Why it’s so Important?

What are goals?

A goal is an objective or target someone is trying to reach or achieve at a certain time in their life. Goals are seen as an endpoint and help people to take aim of a desired result. 

As human beings, we naturally love rewards! Completion of a task and the satisfaction of that gives someone a sense of accomplishment and motivation to keep working! 

Although, if we don’t have a plan to follow or a realistic goal, we often find our motivation petering out. This is usually because we haven’t PLANNED or prepared enough for the goal!

Goals without a plan are just wishes “

So let us give some tips on making goal setting easier and provide insight into why therapists LOVE goal setting so much! 

Why does my child’s therapists want such specific goals?

Often when you attend a therapy appointment with your child, whether that be physio, OT or speech, they ALWAYS ask what your goals are! Well… here is why.. 

  • Setting goals allows you to gain control of your therapy and where it’s going. 
  • It can help your therapist to understand your priorities and what is really meaningful to you, whilst simultaneously motivating you to work towards it. This could be something like wanting your child to write their name, or be able to catch a ball. 
  • By describing these goals to your therapist, they can structure your child’s therapy sessions in a way that allows you to come into a session knowing exactly WHY they are doing the things they are doing! 
  • It also allows reflection, the ability to monitor progress and see positive outcomes! We know that seeing positive change is exciting and motivating!

What are the benefits of setting goals?

Studies have shown that on average, performance and motivation can increase by up to 90% if a realistic goal is set with a clear plan to follow! 

As we mentioned before, setting a goal with your therapist allows them to ensure sessions are specific to your priorities and needs at that point in time. It also allows them to structure a clear plan so that you can know what to expect from therapy. By having a structured plan it sets an end-point or time frame, which means you don’t feel like you are continuing on with a monotonous set of exercises for no reason. This gets the most out of your therapy and helps you to put in 100% each time. 

A structured plan varies depending on your goal, but an example would be:

  • Goal: I would like my child to learn to ride a 2-wheeled bike on flat ground so that he can ride and play with his siblings. 
  • Plan: Attend physiotherapy 1x week for 4 weeks to work on the strength, coordination and motor planning required for bike riding, and practise the program from the physio 2x afternoons a week at home.

Studies have also found that by having a clear goal and plan helps to:

  • Improved satisfaction of therapy
  • Reduced healthcare costs
  • Achievement of positive health outcomes

I find goal setting so hard when there is so much to work on? How do I make it easier?

Think about your WHY!

Meaningful goals that truly inspire you to start working towards the outcome that you want need a WHY. A reason behind it, or why would we bother?!

Consider what is most important to you, your child and your family. What things would you most like to change? What would you most like to improve about your daily living? What key areas are going to have the biggest impact on your life? For example, if your child is 2.5 years old and not yet able to walk, WHY do you want them to walk? Is it because it would make going out into the community easier for you as they are getting too heavy to carry risking injury to yourself? Is it because you see them watching their siblings at the park and want them to be included? Or is it because you want them to have a way of moving around independently that is safe and exciting for them? 

There is no wrong answer if you have a WHY! By finding your why, you gain a stronger sense of why something is so important to you, and why you want to achieve it.

Then ask yourself these questions and work with your therapist to create your plan!

  • When do I want to achieve this goal?
  • What resources do I need to help achieve it?
  • Who can help me? How can they help me?
  • How will I know that my goal has been achieved?
  • What are my next steps? 

Don’t forget to get your child involved in goal setting (if they are old enough)! This also motivates them and you can find what is meaningful to your child too. 

We know that some children require input from lots of different therapists if they have several different areas of need. Don’t feel guilty for putting one goal on hold whilst you work on another. For example, your child may be non-verbal, but is also not yet walking. You may see both of these goals as important, but perhaps being able to say some meaningful words may make your child less frustrated, so at this point in time, learning to talk is slightly more important. 

We understand it can be hard to choose, as you just want the best for your child. But prioritising your goals can help prevent burn-out and therapy fatigue. There is also NOTHING wrong with taking a ‘therapy break’ if you need it! Make sure your therapists are communicating with each other to help you come up with a therapy plan that works for you.