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SMART Goals and the Autism Spectrum Population

By Monique Bergman, M.A. CLE Costa Mesa

Maddie at CLE Costa MesaIndividuals who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) typically have the executive functioning deficit of goal setting. Therefore, it is imperative as professionals to utilize a goal format that has a more concrete sense so our students can not only understand their goals, but see them in a way that they acknowledge as more achievable. The SMART goal format of constructing goals was created by George Duran in 1981 and since has been adapted as well as expanded by many other individuals with this original SMART goal concept (The SMART Goals Guide, 2014).

Today the most common breakdown of the SMART goal concept is S for specific, M for measurable, A for achievable, R for realistic and T for time-specific. This goal format allows for professionals and students to create concrete, measurable and achievable goals.

Taking a closer look at the concept behind SMART goals

CLE Costa Mesa - SMART Goals

S = Specific
This characteristic of the goal requires a goal with no broadness allowed.
M = Measurable
Requires the goal to be measurable in some type of way, meaning one can see the observable progress of the goal being achieved.
A = Achievable
Requires the goal to be seen as achievable in the eyes of the student; requiring that collaborative approach so the student has a sense of say in the goals they set.
R = Realistic
Meaning the goal needs to be seen as realistic in the eye of the students, which piggy backs off the previous concepts so the student has a sense of empowerment in selecting/setting these goals.
T = Time bound or Time specific
Meaning that the goal needs to have a time frame on it. In this way the goal encompasses all the previous concepts into a certain time frame.

Now that the key components of the SMART goal concepts have been explained, let’s put it into practice.

As professionals working with students on the spectrum, we assist students in carrying out multiple goals during their time with us in the program. We can teach them this concept while we work with them and parents in daily life can also use SMART goals with their children. A common goal that we come across in working with students at College Living Experience is achieving some type of post secondary education. Supporting the student in identifying a post secondary education goal requires meeting the student where they are currently functioning and helping identify where their interests lay career-wise.

Here is an example:

Identifying the student’s career interest, for example working within a preschool, satisfies the first component of SMART goals—specific. A realistic course load for students starting off college within our population is typically 2 classes per semester, which satisfies our measurable component. Since the student identified their career interest and we typically recommend a certificate to start off with, this would satisfy as the achievable and realistic component of the goal. Lastly, the time bound aspect of the goal is seen as a semester in this specific case because the student has set the goal to take two classes per semester towards an early childhood certificate at the local community college.

Overall, SMART goals are very useful in everyday life, no matter how small or how big the goals may be for all individuals, especially the population that we have the passion to work with.

REFERENCE: The SMART Goals Guide. (2014). What is a Smart Goal?
Retrieved from

Newsletter Articles – January 2016

social skills at CLE

The New Year traditionally is a time for new resolutions. But for many students, committing to a year-long goal, whether verbally or putting pen to paper, can be stress inducing. The pressure of making a resolution can even undermine their ultimate success. Yet, setting goals is important. So at Rockville CLE, we have framed this concept in a fun and adventurous way in order to avoid many of the normal pit-falls and obstacles that arise when our students are asked to formulate goals.

Independence goals at CLE

Ten New Year’s Resolutions for students with learning differences, and those who care for them.

Steven Ogle - CLE Austin

As long as I can remember every January 1st people have begun the New Year with a promise of a better year. It’s a way to re-write the wrongs we didn’t from the previous year. The tradition stems all the way back to the Babylonian era. The Babylonians made promises at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. Doing the right thing and giving back does seem like a worthwhile idea. Sadly, in our modern times it has became more about ‘self’ with improving physical well-being topping the list of most popular goals for New Year’s resolutions.

Setting goals with Jean Handler - CLE Fort Lauderdale

Jean Handler has been a part of the CLE Davie community since 2011. She has been a member of the Student Leadership Council since its inception in 2013 and Jean is entering the New Year with a keen eye on her future. “I’m ready to begin my career,” Jean said recently during a career development session. “I want to have a good job and use the skills I have learned from school.” Jean has created four goals that hold significant meaning to her, both personally and professionally.

The post SMART Goals and the Autism Spectrum Population appeared first on College Living Experience | CLE | Choose Your Future.

This has been a special needs program update from College Living Experience | CLE | Choose Your Future. You may also click here to read the original article on the main program website.