Otherwise known dream big and work backwards to make it happen
When your child is young and you are trying to wade through moats of therapies, medical issues, school issues, and mental health needs, it can feel impossible to look forward into your child's future and imagine what it could look like. We live one foot in front of another, one day at a time. It keeps us sane, and make hard things into small, manageable goals. We don't often ask a child with special needs what they want in their future because the future seems so murky and unsure. "Why give them false hope," you might whisper to yourself.
What do you want for your child? Dream big for them and teach them how to dream big for themselves. Do you want your child to be able to navigate the community safely? Do you want your child to have meaningful friendships? Do you want your child to someday have hobbies or a job they love?
Start with the life dreams you have for your child. Use those life dreams to form your goals.
For example, if you want your child to be able to navigate the community safely and independently someday, work backward on skills your child will need to master that skill. It might seem overzealous or impossible aiming for an adult goal when your child is in preschool, but by using person-centered planning and thinking, you can drill down the skills your child needs to attain that goal. Skills such as learning safety skills, learning their address or phone number, learning how to sit safely in a bus or car, or learning how to safely ask for help are all rudimentary skills you can start practicing with your child at a young age in preparation for these bigger goals. It's a gift you give to your child by allowing them extra time to learn at their natural pace, instead of throwing them into the world as a young adult and asking them to navigate life without adequate practice.
As your child gets older, person-centered planning can be utilized in a very structured goal-setting form. But by intentionally using person-motivated dreams to set long-term goals for your child, you can jump start your child's skill learning and model the mindset of always striving to chase dreams...a mindset every child, regardless of their abilities, should have cultivated in their hearts.
For more information on person-centered planning and thinking, start here:
Person-Centered Planning and Early Childhood from Positive Supports Minnesota
Person-Centered Planning from FACT Oregon
Person Centered Thinking and Planning from Military Families Learning Network
Charting in LifeCourse for Individuals and Families from LifeCourse