How to teach functional targets?

We have all been there – received a long list of “targets” which our children need to learn and it always feels like it needs to be done all in one day.  I want to focus today on the importance of including goals, targets and lessons that are functional not only for our kids, but also for us as a family.  If your child’s therapist provides you with a list of targets, you can ask them to explain the rationale behind including these specific targets.  There are a few guidelines that we like to “live by” at AIMS when we include goals.  

3 golden guidelines that we live by when we include goals for our kids: 

  1. Keep goals interest-based as much as possible.  Our kids have specific interests and for us at AIMS Global and AIMS Online, this is probably the most important “strategy” to include – teach our kids through their interests.  If they enjoy learning about trains, you can build train tracks together to work on collaboration and interactive play.  If they need to learn about colors and shapes, you can find those in all the different trains found on outings or research projects online.  They can paint trains, build it, create an entire journey to go on later themselves and learn about the different sections of a train.  There are endless opportunities to learn every concept through utilizing your child’s interests.  Trust me, we think of ideas every day for our therapists to include concepts within sometimes quirky interests, such as specific materials (a soft touch of a specific blanket), characters from movies, escalators and many more! As always – if you want to speak to us about your child’s specific interests and brainstorm how to include the lessons you want to help him or her with, please let us know! We love speaking to parents and professionals and joining forces 🙂 
  2. Teach functional skills and goals.  If you receive a list from school that states your child needs to learn about community helpers, try and think of the ones that he or she is familiar with first.  Why would they want to learn about ski instructors if they have never experienced snow?  I ask this as it was on a list that we received from a school to include in one of our kid’s home programs.  Start with the community helpers that they have seen around, but keep the way in which you teach this to them functional, fun and interest-based.  We used to do a lot of “flashcard” lessons when we were trained as ABA therapists.  We have all evolved from there and might include a flashcard here and there, if needed or preferred (by our child), but we need to teach in a way that makes sense to our child.  We can learn about police officers, nurses, firemen and then go meet them or do an outing to different areas in town and interact with these people, in real life.  Learn what they do, why they do what they do and ask them to share their stories.  This also provides an excellent opportunity to take photos of our journey and document it to reference to later again and work on conversational skills, working and long-term memory!  
  3. Keep it FUN! I think it’s obvious from the work we do that we have just as much fun as our kids.  Why not?  If you have to choose a career – would you not choose one that brings you joy and happiness?  We want to create the same for our children – if they need to do therapy, it has to always be fun, interactive and stimulating.  It’s their therapy sessions, not our sessions that they have to engage in.  The more our kids feel they are in control of their own sessions, the more they want to engage and learn, become independent and show signs of genuinely being happy.  What a wonderful site! 

When we create programs for our kids, we include goals that we believe will work on the strengths of our kids as well as improve some challenging areas.  For the most part though we want to let our kids know that they are truly accepted by us, as their mentors or best friends.  I really hope this short blog will help you when you think of goals that “should be” included in your child’s program.  

Please feel free to contact me or anyone from our team should you need advice on how to include your child’s goals in a functional, fun and interest-based manner! 

Have a great rest of the week. 


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