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Autism Spectrum Disorder: How to set goals with a Speech Pathologist

At OSCAR Care Group, we celebrate neurodiversity! Today on World Autism Awareness Day, we would like to share how we support our Autistic clients. When it comes to setting goals and telling us what you want to achieve, we always aim for a person-centered approach to this process. This is particularly true for our Speech Pathology team and supporting autistic participants with their communication goals.

Every Autistic person is different to every other, therefore every goal is unique. Let’s unpack more about what this means!

What is Person centered practice?

Person-centered practice may also be referred to as “patient-centered care.” Person-centered practice refers to putting the patient first when it comes to their healthcare. It gives the patient and their close supports an active role in the decision making and goal setting process. The patient or close support recognises their own needs, and it includes the person’s right to comment, ask questions and provide feedback to the clinician working with them.

Our clinicians at OSCAR Care Group aim to engage in person-centered practice with all our clients and their close support networks. We want to hear from you what your goals are, and how we can support you to get there.

How is this relevant to Autism Spectrum Disorder?

When it comes to goal setting for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and communication, person-centered practice should enable the autistic person to set their own goals and outcomes. This can also include involving the client’s family or close support networks, if required or requested by the client or therapist. It is important to remember and recognise that not all autistic people have the same goals or desired outcomes in their allied health therapies. This is why person-centered practice is crucial for working with a neurodiverse population.

Goal setting for Autism Spectrum Disorder with a Speech Pathologist

Below, we describe 3 key factors of goal setting for Autism Spectrum Disorder that our Speech Pathologists aim to achieve when working with you.

Goal setting Key factor #1: Person-centered

As described above, person-centered practice is about you!

The Speech Pathologist or allied health professional should aim to achieve this approach with all autistic clients and people. This is about putting you at the forefront of goal setting and therapies. It can be particularly harmful to a client if a therapist tries to set goals for you based on what they think you need. We want to work on the goals that you want to achieve.

An example of this may be if one autistic client wants to work on social communication skills and creating new friendships or relationships in their daily life. The Speech Pathologist can work with this person to build their confidence and skills to achieve this desired outcome.

Another autistic person may already be happy with their existing friendships and networks and does not want to work on this goal at this time. Instead, they want to work towards finding a job and participating in a job interview. The Speech Pathologist can work with the client on job interview skills and does not need to explore friendships or other relationships if this isn’t relevant to the client’s goals at the current time.

Goal setting Key factor #2: Functional

Goal setting should be linked to functional outcomes that directly improve the client’s daily life. For example, common functional goals that Speech Pathologists and Occupational Therapists work on with autistic clients may be:

  • Feeling confident to introduce myself to new people.

  • Be more independent with my activities of daily living and routine, such as cooking, showering, and cleaning.

  • Accessing the community more independently such as using public transport and being able to ask for help (through verbal or nonverbal communication methods).

  • Communicating how I am feeling using verbal language, a communication aid or sign language.

Goal setting Key factor #3: Adaptable

Goal setting does not need to be completely final once you have decided on goals with your therapist that you are happy with. As humans, our lives can change rapidly and therefore so can our therapy goals because of change or growth. The Speech Pathologist or allied health professional will aim to meet you where you are at!

Let’s go back to the example given earlier to explain this further:

  • The client met with the Speech Pathologist and decided to work on job interview skills. At the time, they were happy with their existing friendships and relationships, and didn’t have this as a desired skill or outcome to work towards.

  • After 4 therapy sessions working on job interview skills, the client was able to achieve this goal and successfully got a job.

  • The client now wants to work towards making a new friend at this job and doesn’t feel confident in approaching new people to work towards this. The client has now adapted their goal to building their confidence to make friends with new people.

  • Now that this new goal has been established between the client and the clinician, they can start targeting therapy towards this desired outcome.

Remember when goal setting …

Goal setting for Autism Spectrum Disorder should be a collaborative process between the client, their close support networks and the Speech Pathologist or allied health professional. At OSCAR Care Group, we aim to have goals that are person-centered, functional, and adaptable to achieve desired outcomes.

Afterall, we’re here to help and support you!


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