Writing Goals

September 2008

Many people want to know more about writing goals specifically for AAC users. They ask questions like “How is it different than writing goals for verbal individuals?” “Where do I start?” and “What kind of goals do I write?” To answer those questions we can use an acronym that appears frequently in discussions about goal writing:

SMART: Specific Measurable Achievable Relevant Time Limited

Let’s see how this idea works for AAC by defining the elements of a SMART goal:

  • Specific: Focused goals will be easier to measure and achieve. Rather than saying “communicate” or “participate in classroom activities,” goals should state specific skills to be demonstrated like “make three comments” or “combine nouns and verbs to create simple sentences.”
  • Measurable: Typically, goals are measured by numbers (e.g., 3/4) or percentages (e.g., 85% of the time). When selecting the criteria, make sure your measurement is clear and easily collected. For example, if you want to increase social interaction writing a goal to “greet peers in 80% of opportunities” might be confusing because the definition of an “opportunity” may vary for different people. The goal could be changed to “greet peers within 30 seconds of entering a classroom” to make it more easily measurable.
  • Achievable: While a goal should stretch an individual, it cannot be too challenging. If it is, it may have a negative impact on attitude, perception as a communicator, and the likelihood of acquiring permission to continue therapy in the future.
  • Relevant: Meaningful goals can help AAC users, especially new AAC users, stay engaged in the learning process. Goals that focus on drill rather than more functional activities may not seem as relevant to an AAC user and, as a result, may not be reached as quickly.
  • Time Limited: Goals need to have an ending point. AAC users should not be working repeatedly on the same goals but rather demonstrating their skills and then continuing to be challenged.

Be SMART as you write your IEP, therapy or service plan, or other goals this fall!

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