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What Does "Dreams Form Goals" Mean
Little girl blowing dandelion on backgro

When you set a life goal for your child, do you start by thinking of the thing they struggle with the most, or do you start by considering their talents, interests, and dreams? For most typically developing children, that is exactly how life goals are

built. What sports do they excel at? Do they have an ear for music? Are they artistic? Parents use this information to pour into the child's talents to grow them into something meaningful, useful, and fulfilling.

But for children with special needs, that's rarely the framework for life goals. Instead we start by considering all the things they can't do or don't like doing. Then, goals are set against these deficits. Little serious consideration is given to all the obvious or subtle talents,

Special Needs Child works with parent

What I Want Parents to Know

Blog posts featuring adult self-advocates who are living happy and fulfilling lives while also living with a variety of medical, physical, developmental, or mental health disabilities. They share their stories of success and trials and what they want parents to know from their own life experiences.

interests, and strengths the child possesses. In a quest to help bridge the deficit gap, parents and professionals often limit the child to a life with underutilized strengths and no expectation of living a life filled with their personal dreams.

We all have dreams. Some big, some small, but we all have dreams for what our best, more comfortable fulfilling lives could look like. Children with special needs are just not often asked soon enough what their dreams might be in order for the parents to provide the same childhood enrichment other children who are typically developing inherently receive.

Young girl with cerebral palsy on white

I wish I could go back to those moments in my son's early childhood and take stock of his strengths FIRST and then figure out how to use those to drive his goals. Instead we spent years looking at what he couldn't do and investing all our time and energy into "fixing" his deficits. His strengths sat largely ignored and underdeveloped. It wasn't until we flipped the script and insisted on investing precious time and resources into his strengths that we realized how much better prepared he will be for life. Instead of spending hours working on a skill that he will likely never need for the life he envisions for himself, we are throwing that precious teaching time toward skills he will need. The deficits are still addressed, but now we approach those interventions by considering his strengths first and how we can harness them to enhance learning. We are intentional in creating relationships in our community and modeling how our son can participate and be accepted as a valued community member. This work can take time, and it's best started at a young age.

For the first time, my son's dream (which is currently to work at a theme park and live in an apartment) is forming his goals. Even at a young age.

Goals and dreams are both meant to be worked toward and achieved. And they should be allowed to change and honored as they grow older. But whatever his life dreams and goals are, we finally figured out they should always go hand in hand.

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