Social goals are a bit challenging to develop. In working with new graduates in our field, it’s become very clear that our college curriculum is coming up a bit short in discussions of how to write social language goals that are SMARTER: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic (!), Timely, Ethical, Reasonable. The newly minted SLPs are well versed in writing goals related to articulation, language, voice and fluency but the social piece seems to have been a bit vague. I don’t blame them, the field of social language is relatively new and it is a paradigm shift to think about social cognition, My brain often spins thinking about the many nuances of social language skills!
The first thing I will do is share this amazing article about the Social Learning Tree . We need to understand the foundations of social language before we can write good goals. Next, it takes time and experience (duh) with people who have social communication impairments. Social language goals extend to people with ASD, TBI, ADD, EBD and all along the bell curve of communication disorders. And if I may step on my soap box for a second, our electronic society is cultivating a socially language impaired culture of people who don’t look or talk to one another, but that is another post for another day!
Talk to the student’s teachers, interview the parents, utilize language and social checklists, observe the child in several settings (structured and unstructured) and interact with them to find the strengths and weaknesses. There are lots of moving parts to the social communication puzzle! You do NOT need twenty social goals in an IEP! Since the IEP is a fluid document start small and focused with 3-5 goals at most and build from there.
I see a lot of IEPS from seasoned therapists as well that write goals for greetings and farewells as the first goal. Yes, It’s important, but can you build that into each session without it being a goal? Absolutely. You need to consider where the student is on the social learning tree skill wise and then prioritize the deficits that impact them the most. It’s not a one size/one goal fits all approach. Don’t forget that a lot of social language is already built into the core, particularly in literature and language arts , including perspective taking, inferences, and cause/effect.
Utilizing materials that are researched based and are practical and brilliant at the same time such as Think Social and Superflex, will help you develop goals and therapy plans. I know materials cost money, so consider applying for mini-grants to fund your social bank of materials. Talk to your fellow therapists, and ask lots of questions! Look into Pinterest and other sites that can spark great ideas for you such as Jill Kuzma’s blog. Don’t recreate the wheel, but also look at this learning curve as an opportunity to grow your own creativity!
What helped you in writing goals for social language?