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  • Dayan Law Firm

Goal Setting with Children with Learning Disabilities: Helping them Reach Their Dreams




Setting goals is crucial for the success and development of individuals with learning disabilities. It allows them to visualize their future, make informed choices, and work towards making their dreams a reality. However, goal setting can be challenging for children with disabilities, particularly those with Executive Function Disorder. In this blog, we will discuss effective strategies to help children with disabilities set and achieve their goals, despite any obstacles they may face.


Dreams and Desires

To help children with disabilities set meaningful goals, it is important to listen to them and understand their dreams and desires. Encourage open-ended conversations and ask questions that allow them to express their thoughts and aspirations. Even if their ideas may seem unrealistic or outlandish, avoid discouraging them. Instead, shape their aspirations in a way that aligns with their abilities and strengths. For example, if a student with learning disabilities expresses a desire to become a doctor, discuss alternative career paths in the medical field that can still fuel their passion for helping others.


Related to their Desires

When children are encouraged to set goals that directly relate to their desires, their intrinsic motivation is ignited. A prime example of this is Jack Horner, a dyslexic individual who faced academic challenges but excelled in science projects. His unwavering goal of becoming a dinosaur paleontologist drove him to overcome obstacles and achieve tremendous success in his field. By aligning goals with their desires, children with disabilities are more likely to stay motivated and persevere through difficulty.


Encouraging with Disabilities

Children with disabilities may require additional support to work around their limitations and progress towards their goals. Encourage them to develop strategies and techniques that accommodate their specific needs. 


For instance, a student with attention deficit disorder may benefit from keeping a journal to organize homework and deadlines, as well as setting short-term goals to stay focused. When setting goals, ensure they are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound) and provide guidance on how to break them down into manageable steps.


Ambition

Perseverance is crucial for individuals with learning disabilities, as they may encounter barriers that others do not face. By teaching and modeling perseverance, children learn to overcome setbacks and keep pushing forward. Jim Jones, a dyslexic individual, exemplifies the power of perseverance. Despite his reading difficulties, he developed exceptional skills in basketball twirling. Through relentless practice and determination, he eventually performed at an NBA game halftime show. By highlighting stories of successful individuals with disabilities, children are inspired to overcome challenges and persist in pursuing their goals.


Managing Setbacks and Failures

Teaching children to handle setbacks and failures is essential in their journey towards achieving their goals. Emphasize that mistakes are opportunities for learning and that success often involves detours along the way. 


Remind them that persistence is important, but knowing when to quit is equally valuable. Successful individuals with learning disabilities often find unique ways to achieve their goals. For instance, Jack Horner, without a formal degree, landed a job at Princeton University's Natural History Museum by reaching out to multiple institutions and showcasing his passion for paleontology.


Specific Strategies for Encouraging Goal Setting

Here are some specific strategies to encourage goal setting in children with disabilities:


  1. Acknowledge and praise their efforts towards their goals, particularly the goals they set for themselves.

  2. Establish connections between their schoolwork and their personal goals.

  3. Appreciate and praise their work process, emphasizing their determination and persistence.

  4. Encourage them to reflect on how they achieved success and speak positively about their accomplishments.

  5. Foster a sense of inner strength and resilience, helping them overcome learning disabilities and reach for their dreams.

  6. Be the supportive figure who believes in their abilities, just as many successful  individuals with disabilities credit their achievements to someone who believes in them.

 

Make sure everyone in their support system understands these goals. This may include not just their teachers, but any specialists that work with your child, like neuropsychs, speech-language therapists and occupational therapists, and extended family who spend time with them. When everyone working with your child and you know their goals, you can coordinate to provide the support they need.




Conclusion

Goal setting plays an essential role in the success of individuals with learning disabilities. By understanding their desires, encouraging goals aligned with their passions, and providing strategies to work around their disabilities, we can support children with disabilities in achieving their dreams.


Teaching perseverance and helping them handle setbacks and failures are pivotal in their journey toward success. With the right guidance and support, we can empower these individuals to overcome obstacles and make their dreams come true.




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