We want the best for our children, and having a vision is essential for them to thrive. Achieving it involves planning and setting goals for the child and family that lead to positive outcomes. While outcomes are a somewhat overlooked area in the current system, they will be a major focus with the forthcoming NDIS. How do we set goals effectively? The Ready, Set NDIS workshop held at Plumtree in April 2016 gave parents some insight and activities to learn about the process.

Less is more

Why are goals important? Workshop host and Plumtree CEO Sylvana Mahmic put it succinctly: not having a set of goals is like going for a drive but not knowing your destination—you want to know where you are going.

Goals need to be relevant and appropriate. Rather than speeding through a large list, it’s important to prioritise and set goals that can be achieved within a short timeframe. Work intensely on a few and pace yourself, as having too many goals will leave no time for family, relationships and other important things. From personal experience, Sylvana said that trying to do it all is not sustainable in the long term. “Bring others into your child’s life who can support you.” Therapies are not goals, she added. It’s a common misconception; they are services that help you achieve your goals.

Writing it down

Dr. Annick Janson, Plumtree’s partner on the Family Storytelling project and other initiatives, encouraged committing goals to paper for motivation. Parents were then organised into groups and given a worksheet developed at Plumtree by Robin Treloar which helps families to break down the process of setting goals and making them happen. The goal had to:

  • Be achievable in one month
  • Focus on the child’s strengths
  • Involve others
  • Make life easier at particular times of the day
  • Fit in family life

Parents also worked together to think about skills required for themselves and their child, people and agencies that can help, and changes to the environment needed to support the goal. They also considered how to identify progress being made towards the goal. Examples included observing positive changes in the child’s routines and increased independence.

Sharing and learning

The workshop concluded with attendees sharing their goal. One parent would like her 19 year-old daughter to prepare bacon and eggs. A helpful strategy with long or complex tasks is to set up the activity and have the child complete the last part by herself first; in this case making toast. They will then work backwards through the various steps.

One parent’s goal was for her six year-old son to pack his school bag. They will use visuals to help guide him and make a list of the bag’s contents. Another parent would like her older son to be able to go shopping, as he was uncomfortable with retail lighting and noise made by trolleys. The strategy was to take him out into the community and initially walk around the block, going for a drive and then visiting the supermarket.

Feedback from attendees on the workshop was very positive. Besides goal setting activities, many remarked that being able to talk with and learn from other parents was a highlight. It reflects what experience has taught us at Plumtree: families learn best from each other.

Children have a right to grow and need opportunities to achieve. While skills that we want them to learn can sometimes seem overwhelmingly complex, they can be broken down into smaller achievable steps that can be celebrated.

Applying for the NDIS?  Come along to one of our Six Steps to NDIS First Plan Ready workshops. For dates and more info see our Calendar

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