Writing Goals That Fit Individual Needs

Whether you are in a school setting, clinic setting, or an in-home setting, finding goals and targets that meet a learner’s needs can be overwhelming. There may be many skills that are needed to target, or you may have a learner who his independent in most domains and only requires a little bit of help. Creating goals that are meaningful and purposeful to our learners gives us a back up when and if we have to advocate for our learner. In this post, I will share some of the strategies that help me expand on goals and skills to create goals that are individualized, functional, and meaningful to a learner.

Using assessments

When running assessments to see where our learners are, the team should be confident in the assessment they are going to use. The choice of assessment is very similar to goal writing and should be individualized! An example of this is that we are not going to use the AFLS for a 2 year old learner who is not yet using vocal language to communicate. After the team and I run the assessments, we review the data and analyze the graphs.

  1. Where is our learner scoring in comparison to a typical learner their age?
  2. Did our learner score about what we thought they would?
  3. What skills are missing within the assessments?

The assessments are there to see where our learners need to go, what skills they are missing, and how we want them to grow, but we should not be writing goals that are stated exactly from the assessment. 


The first stop is always data. I have always been a data driven person. If I have a baseline for a new learner or if I am assessing a learner who I have worked with for a long time, reviewing the data is the first step to looking into next skills. Reviewing and analyzing the data is also beneficial for the team to see where their hard work is going. I need to see the data and review it in order to know where my learners are struggling, where they are progressing, and which skills are generalizing and maintaining. Data in the classroom helps know when to teach skills, review maintenance skills, and track data on student IEP goals and alternate curriculum goals. Having the data and graphs always increased my confidence when talking with administration, parents, and the team. We were also able to problem solve and review if a learner was progressing through targets as we thought they were or if they were struggling or moving quicker than we anticipated.


Writing smart goals

SMART stands for: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time based. Writing goals that follow each of these criteria in the goal statement and description is important and helps individualize.


Examples of goals:


  1. By October 2022, our learner will utilize PECS phase 3 (task analysis) with 90% accuracy and across 2 service providers.
  2. Our learner will tact 25 pictures of common items with 90% accuracy across 3 consecutive sessions.
  3. In one year, our learner will increase independence in functional routines by 20% for 4 functional routines.
  4. By March 2023. our learner will raise their hand and wait to be called on during large group activities with 100% independence.
  5. Our learner will follow a 3 task mini schedule to start and finish independent work tasks with 100% independence across 2 consecutive sessions.


Writing individualized goals, programs, IEPs, and treatment plans are time consuming but also very necessary. One of my past blog may also help with implementation!

Heather Hoeft, B.S., M.Ed., LBS1
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