Goal-Setting With Your Special Needs Child: The Results

August 15, 2013 Heiddi Zalamar, LMHC, MA

Last week, I shared how goal-setting can be a positive way to motivate your special needs child. Bob is definitely motivated by having a goal in mind. The goal he wanted to accomplish was to walk to school on his own. So what was the result?

The Goal: Walking to School

First, we needed to choose the goal. It was very simple; Bob wanted to walk to school on his own. As a single mom living in the South Bronx in New York City, I have seen many things. And while the neighborhood has changed in many ways, it doesn't mean I don't worry. So, Bob and I made a plan for this to happen.


Once we knew what the goal was (walking alone to school) we needed to figure out how long it would take Bob to meet it. Bob decided that he wanted to do it right away. But, as I'm more mindful of the area, I suggested that he take the entire sixth grade year to get to his goal. Bob agreed. The next step was to come up with the plan to get it all done.

The Plan

The next step was to figure out how Bob would walk to school alone. I helped more with this because Bob tends to be impulsive. This has partly to do with his ADHD and the other part is that he is a pre-teen with a goal in mind. This goal required creativity, so, I worked with Bob to walk him to school in stages. The school itself is about a five-minute walk from our house, but it is in a zig-zag pattern. We started by walking together the entire way to school. Then as he was able to show me that he could cross the street (ie look both ways and be aware of his surroundings) well, I dropped him off at different points. Each point was farther from the school and closer to home. At first, I'd drop him off across the street from the school. As time progressed, the distance became farther as I went block by block with Bob.

The Result? He did it!

Bob accomplished his goal. Little by little, Bob showed me that he was reliable and capable of walking to school on his own. I was a year younger than he was when I began doing the walk, but given that he has ADHD, I held off a bit longer. And I'm so glad that I did. It was a very proud moment for both of us to know that he chose and accomplished a goal for himself. Not only was this a great goal, but it was a great boost for his self-esteem.

Other Considerations

This was not an easy thing to achieve for Bob. At times, he had setbacks. One condition I put on this was that Bob needed to know that walking alone was a privilege and not a right. This was a goal that needed to be earned. So every time Bob was disrespectful or oppositional, he lost his chance to walk to school alone the next day. Or for several days depending on the severity of his negative behavior. Another thing to consider was Bob's morning routine. Due to his ADHD, Bob takes an hour and a half (or more) to get ready for school. So we had to adjust his alarm (and sleep schedule) to give him enough time. All in all, I'm VERY proud of Bob. And to think, it was all his idea.

What goal-setting tips have you used to help your special needs child?

photo credit: duncan via photopin cc

APA Reference
Zalamar, H. (2013, August 15). Goal-Setting With Your Special Needs Child: The Results, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, April 17 from

Author: Heiddi Zalamar, LMHC, MA

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