Motivate me! Setting goals to improve communication skills

by Sandy Klindworth MS, CCC-SLP July 17, 2018

motivate me

As an SLP I am very familiar with writing goals in a treatment plan or an IEP. Goals are long-term, establish the path forward, set priorities, and with incremental objectives, lay out the leading toward goal achievement. I think of the goals I write as a contract, laying out what will be addressed and the outcomes that are expected.  

Motivating with visual supports

We use visual supports with children including token boards, first/then, contingency maps, and min-schedules to help them participate and invest in their own short-term goals involving completing tasks or managing their behavior. These are like contracts too, and we know they make a huge difference. They motivate and provide a sense of accomplishment. Not only because they help the child understand expectations and potential rewards, but also because we obtain the child’s buy-in by including him or her in developing the terms of the “contract” in front of them. 

Getting buy-in for long-term goals

What about explicitly including children in developing and investing in their long-term goals through contracts as well? I can remember sitting across a horseshoe table from a group of students in a speech/language group and asking, “why are you here?” Not a single one of them had any idea. I can’t expect them to be motivated toward achieving goals they are not even aware of. I don’t accomplish much when I don’t know what I am trying to accomplish either! It makes sense to include each child in understanding and buying into some long-term goals, with understanding being key to buying in.   

  • Talk to your students individually. Use symbol-based visual supports as needed. I begin my contract discussions with students with a back-and-forth about things I do well (cooking), and things I could use some help or practice with (sports).  
  • Help the student recognize something he/she does well, (make friends, swing, talk about dinosaurs) and something he/she could use help with (pronouncing /r/ better, knowing more words, making better sentences, telling what she wants).  
  • Choose a sensible focus and make it as concrete as possible. One goal is enough for some students, others may do well with more.  
  • Break it down, write it down with steps. To see examples of student contracts, click here. To see an example you can use as a template on the Boardmaker Community, click here. To join the Boardmaker Online Community or start a free trial, click here 

Every student receiving SLP services should know why. Motivate them with active participation in setting and achieving goals to improve their communication skills.

Sandy Klindworth MS, CCC-SLP
Sandy Klindworth MS, CCC-SLP

Sandy Klindworth, MS, CCC-SLP, is a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) with 35 years of experience providing consultative, assessment, and therapy services for children with complex speech and language needs. After a career in the public schools, she worked in her own private practice adapting a SCERTS (Social Communication, Emotional Regulation, and Transactional Supports) approach with young children in clinic, home, and school environments. Sandy is currently a Boardmaker Learning Consultant on the Tobii Dynavox Learning Services team, creating and providing training, resources, and support to families and professionals.

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