The beginning of a new year is an exciting time for families, filled with opportunities for breakthroughs and promises of progress. For parents with children with autism or special needs though, the process of setting new goals for the upcoming year can be complex as we try to focus on providing what our children need to thrive on a daily basis. Every child has unique needs and it is important for us as parents and caregivers to set goals that are realistic, achievable, and suited to our strengths and challenges.
With 12+ years of experience fostering sensory-safe, inclusive environments for children of ALL abilities and helping families achieve goals that once seemed unattainable, We Rock the Spectrum is here to share our treasure trove of tips and techniques for setting goals to help you make the most of 2023. Let’s get started!
You know your child better than anyone else and as their caretaker and comforter, you know what they need to have a higher quality of life. And while planning for the future for your child with autism or special needs may seem like a tall task, establishing an attainable, healthy vision can put your mind in the right place to tackle the year ahead. Start by identifying your child’s strengths, interests, and unique needs. From there, you can work with your child, therapists, and educators to develop realistic, achievable milestones that can help get them on the path to reaching their full potential. It’s important to consider both short-term and long-term goals and to be flexible as your child makes progress over the year.
Progress is a process that is easy to lose sight of when hard days or setbacks make it seem impossible to achieve your goals. Documenting and remembering positive moments throughout the year can help motivate and remind you of all that you have already accomplished. This could be as simple as keeping a journal, color coding your calendar, or posting on social media about notable moments. This information can then be used to adjust your goals, ensuring your vision remains relevant and achievable. Additionally, regularly rewarding good progress can be a powerful motivator for both you and your child. Whether it’s participating in a special activity, a weekend treat, or simply acknowledging their efforts with loving words, positive reinforcement can help build your child’s self-esteem, confidence, and determination.
To show up as the best possible parent for your child every day, you need to show up for yourself! Caring and providing for children with autism and special needs can be physically and emotionally demanding, and it’s important to take time to consider your well-being in order to provide the best possible support for your family. This can include engaging in activities and hobbies that bring you joy and relaxation or seeking extra support from your friends, family, and mental health professionals. Failing to prioritize self-care can lead to burnout, stress, and a decreased ability to provide effective support. By taking care of yourself, you can not only improve your own mental and physical health but also have the energy and resources needed to provide the support your child needs to reach their goals.
Hitting the gym is a common goal at the top of everyone’s New Year’s Resolution lists but we know how you can take it to another level this year! Visiting an inclusive, sensory-safe playground like We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gyms (WRTS) gives your child the opportunity to play and learn a great deal about themselves and their health. Designed to provide a welcoming, supportive, and exciting environment, every WRTS location features twelve specially designed pieces of equipment, plus other special activity areas, to support the developmental needs of children with sensory processing disorders. In fact, the equipment is regularly used by Occupational Therapists, who often run sessions at these indoor playground locations. By finding a sensory-safe space like We Rock the Spectrum where your child can Play With A Purpose™, your child can develop important life skills, such as socialization, communication, and gross motor skills. Additionally, the gym is a fantastic place for parents to build a supportive community, connect with other families in similar situations, and discover new resources.
While it is always great to set goals that push you to make progress, the goals that you are setting for yourself and your child should be realistic for the time frame in which you want to accomplish them. Children on the spectrum often face unique challenges and may struggle with tasks that come easily to their peers, so it is important to focus on your progress and yours alone. By setting attainable goals for your child’s unique needs, you can help your children build confidence. When expectations are too high, children may become discouraged and feel they have not made progress. Every child will develop at their own pace, and it’s essential to be supportive and encouraging as they work towards the goals you have set together. Try working with your child’s teacher or therapist to develop a plan that takes into account their strengths and individual needs.
While experience is valuable, continuing to stay up-to-date on the latest treatments, therapies, and technology related to autism and special needs can put you in a better position to provide effective support and advocacy for the autism community. Additionally, staying informed about laws and policies that affect individuals with autism and special needs can help you ensure that your child’s rights in school or other settings are protected. Research organizations, look for camps, online training, and courses, or consult with your child’s therapist so you can stay in the know about the most recent and significant changes as it relates to your child’s diagnosis.
Whether your child was recently diagnosed or you have been seeing medical and therapy specialists for years, each year your child ages they will undergo new physical and mental development. Planning ahead and gathering materials for any upcoming appointments can help you and your child make stronger moves toward better health. A comprehensive medical and therapeutic needs plan should include information about your child’s medical history, current medications, and treatments, as well as any necessary therapeutic services, such as physical, occupational, or speech therapy. The plan should also outline the roles and responsibilities of each care provider, to ensure a coordinated effective approach is taken. This can also help it easier to manage appointments, track progress, and make necessary adjustments to your child’s care.
In the midst of setting new goals, it’s important not to lose sight of the core of this endeavor – to be there for your child and set them up for success in the new year. Making the effort to connect with them on a deeper level year after year will give them the emotional support that they need to take on new challenges. Deepening your connection with your child can involve taking time to understand their unique perspective and communication style, as well as finding common interests and activities that you can enjoy as a family. Working on your bond can also improve communication and make it easier to work together to address any challenges that may arise. Whether it’s through spending quality time together, going to your local We Rock, or simply taking the time to listen, connecting with your child is a vital step in helping them lead a successful and fulfilling life.
With dedication and patience, 2023 can be a year of growth and celebration! By setting realistic expectations, expanding your knowledge, creating a comprehensive care plan, and connecting on a meaningful level with your child, you can help your child reach their full potential and prepare yourself and your family for a wonderful year ahead. Remember, every child is unique, and progress will look different for different abilities. The most important thing is to remain supportive, patient, and flexible as you work together to achieve your goals.
Founded with the mission of providing children of ALL abilities a safe space to play, learn, and grow in a safe, accepting space, We Rock the Spectrum provides families with a safe haven and “finally a place where you never have to say I’m sorry®!” We are eager and ready to support you in every endeavor! Join us at one of our global locations today.