Goal Writing for School-Based Occupational Therapists

by Howard Gerber on February 15, 2018

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occupational therapy goalsIf you work as a school-based occupational therapist, you are probably no stranger to writing reports. One of the most important reports you create is the student’s individualized educational program (IEP). The IEP goals guide the school-based team and are critical to the work you do with your students. Good goal writing helps you stay focused and may help your students reach their potential.

Before Goal Setting

Before writing the goals for a student’s IEP, consider a few important factors. Having an idea of a child’s baseline is essential. If you don’t have a good understanding of how the child is performing academically, socially, and physically, you won’t be able to measure progress.

Consider the parent’s concerns for their child’s academic performance. Talk with parents to get their feedback. Parents often know their child best and can be a good asset.

It’s also helpful to review the goals for each student you are working with in-between IEP meetings. You may want to adjust your therapy techniques or strategies depending on the progress the student is making.


Using the acronym SMART, helps you structure your goals in an actionable and measurable way. It also provides a foundation to keep goal writing consistent between students. When writing a SMART goal consider the following:

Specific: When developing a goal for students, details matter. Vague or general terms in a goal plan are more difficult to measure. Consider including the specific subject or skill you are targeting, such as improving the total number of words written in an English assignment or reading a specific number of words per minute.

Measurable: Measurable goals help determine if the student is progressing. Determining progress allows the school-based team to reassess the plan and change strategies if needed. Although there are various ways to measure progress, assessments, standardized tests, and observation in the classroom are some options.

Attainable: Goals in a student’s IEP should be attainable. You don’t want to underestimate the child’s potential. You also don’t want to write a goal that is so difficult to achieve it is unrealistic. It is often motivating for students and their parents to see the child reach their goals. If you write an unrealistic goal, it can decrease confidence and motivation.

Relevant: The goal should be something that is relevant to the student’s educational experience. That doesn’t mean every goal has to be a measurement of academics. Improving mobility, attention span, and social skills all play a role in a child’s school experience.

Time: Set a timeframe for the goals you write. Goals will often be something that the student can achieve at the end of the school year. It’s also helpful to set some goals that have a shorter timeframe, such as the end of a semester or trimester. Achieving short-term goals can boost self-confidence and encourage students to work harder.

Report writing may never be your favorite part of the job as a school-based occupational therapist. But by using the acronym above, you can write SMART goals that help your students succeed.


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