Reporting progress towards occupational therapy goals is part of working as a school-based occupational therapist. One of the most important reports you create is a student’s individualized education program (IEP) goals. These IEP goals guide the school-based team and the work you do with your students. Effective occupational therapy goal writing gives the team focus and helps your student reach their potential.
It helps to use the SMART approach when creating occupational therapy IEP goals and objectives. What are SMART goals for occupational therapy? We will take a detailed look at how they work and how they help students, parents and the school-based team better work together.
Using SMART goals in school occupational therapy
SMART is an acronym for the elements ideally included in school-based occupational therapy goals and objectives on IEPs. These five elements provide structure and create consistency in goal writing from student-to-student.
Make goals clear, precise and detailed. It is easy to misunderstand vague or general terms and they are difficult to measure. Specify a subject or skill you are targeting, such as improving the total number of words written in an English assignment or reading a specific number of words per minute. The idea is to remove ambiguity.
Make goals measurable so that the school team, the student, and parents can clearly see progress and achievements. With measurable clarity, you can constantly reassess the plan and adjust strategies if needed. Measure progress with physical assessments, standardized tests, and classroom observation. Use the same method each time so that results are comparable week to week and month to month.
Occupational therapy goals should be attainable. While it is important not to underestimate the child’s potential, you also do not want to propose goals that are so difficult to achieve that they are unrealistic. If you have a big objective, break it down into smaller achievable steps. Accomplishing each one increases the student’s confidence and motivation.
Each of your occupational therapy goals should be something that specifically applies to the student’s educational experience. While that includes academics, relevant goals also include improving mobility, motor skills, attention span, and social skills. These all contribute to the student’s overall school experience.
Time is the last element in SMART goals for occupational therapy. Each goal should include a timeframe for achieving it. School-based occupational therapy goals and objectives might be something a student can achieve in the first few weeks of school, within months, or by the end of the school year. Short-term goals boost self-confidence and encourage students to work harder. Long-term therapy goals inspire a student to reach further.
Occupational therapy goal writing using SMART goals brings clarity to students, parents, and the in-school team. They help everyone work together smoothly. Done right, they motivate and increase confidence, improving the lives of students and those around them.
6 things to consider when writing an occupational therapy IEP goal
Before writing the goals for a student’s IEP, consider a few important factors:
- Determine the child’s baseline. It is essential to understand the starting point of each student. If you do not have a good understanding of how the child is performing academically, socially, and physically from the beginning, you will not be able to measure progress.
- Consider the parent’s concerns for their child’s academic performance. Talk with parents to get their feedback. Parents often know their children best and can be helpful in both setting occupational therapy goals and helping students achieve them.
- Monitor progress. Decide on the metrics to track, how to track them and how often. Keep a regular monitoring program in place so that you can react quickly.
- Review each student’s goals in-between IEP meetings. You may want to adjust your therapy techniques or strategies depending on the progress the student is making.
- Communicate progress widely. Letting the team know how a student is progressing will help everyone understand what is working and what can be improved. Sharing and celebrating a student’s progress inspires and motivates.
- Periodically review benchmarks. SMART goals are not set in stone. If a student is falling behind or quickly exceeding their goals, you can reset them as appropriate.
Why is setting an occupational therapy goal important?
Setting goals for students is essential for occupational therapists. The occupational therapy goals included in the IEPs address each student’s individual needs so that they can make progress to thrive in an academic setting.
Having SMART goals for occupational therapy aligns the school team on plans and helps them adjust through the academic year. The goals are the foundation for communicating progress to the school team, parents, and the student in a clear and concise manner. This kind of focus and alignment can also help you in preventing burnout as a school occupational therapist.
Many schools have an occupational therapy goal bank that therapists can use as a resource for suggestions and guidance when creating student’s IEP goals. The short- and long-term occupational therapy goal examples mean that therapists do not have to start from scratch when writing IEPs. Instead, they can individualize recommendations to best align with student needs.
School-based occupational therapy goal examples and objectives
These example occupational therapy IEP goals and objectives can inspire your short- and long-term goal writing for students. Short-term goals might be achievable in a week or two, while long-term goals may take an entire school year or more.
Goal: The student will be able to independently open and close art supply containers within a year. The student will be successful in 9 out of 10 tries so that they can access what they need to visually convey knowledge and/or ideas.
Reflection: This SMART goal example specifies an attainable goal necessary for a common academic activity within a timeframe and includes a benchmark measurement for measuring progress.
Goal: The student will understand 10 safety signs including: Do Not Enter, Don’t Walk, No Swimming, Wrong Way, Stop, Danger, Slow, Walk, Bus Stop, Mens, and Womens by successfully matching the sign to a picture with a corresponding meaning correctly in 8 of 10 tries by the end of the school year.
Reflection: This SMART goal specifies a needed school-related skill with a goal to achieve within a specified length of time with a defined metric.
Goal: The student will match lowercase to uppercase letters by drawing a corresponding line to each correctly 8 out of 10 tries within a year as part of learning to read and write.
Reflection: A SMART goal like this one takes into consideration the student’s education level so that it is relevant to academic achievement.
Goal: The student will be able to independently hold a crayon and scribble up to 15 seconds 9 out of 10 times within a year so that they have a foundation for eventually being able to write and draw.
Reflection: This SMART goal includes a relevant, attainable activity to measurably achieve within a specific time. It is an example of a goal for occupational therapy in a preschool setting. You will want to adjust your goals so that they are grade-appropriate.
Goal: The student will be able to successfully demonstrate an action using a toy 9 out of 10 times within a year so that they can begin to express themselves in an academic setting.
Reflection: Not only does this goal reflect the SMART acronym, it is a fun and playful way for the student to engage in the activity. Learn more about the importance of play in school occupational therapy.
Creating occupational therapy goals for each student’s individualized education program (IEP) is vital to helping them define and reach their potential. Using a SMART approach helps them, their parents and their school-based team better work together so they can achieve more.
If you’re interested in a career in school-based occupational therapy, you can start by learning more about school occupational therapist duties, skills and benefits. There are also some important factors to consider before accepting a school-based occupational therapy job.
You can check out these tips for writing an occupational therapy resume to help boost your chances of landing a job in the field. When you are ready, you can search for available positions near you by following the button below.