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Updated: Aug 3, 2023

Setting goals for therapy under the NDIS is natural part of the process. Goals allow us to have something to work towards and improve on, helping with motivation and purpose for therapy sessions.

However goals need to be meaningful and measurable and when set correctly can make a real difference in your child life and participation in the community. In this blog, we will help identify the key strategies to help your child create meaningful goals that will help them thrive within the NDIS environment.

a spelling of the word 'goals' each letter being held up by a hand

Focusing on function and participation


Function: An activity that a person does in everyday life

Participation: The action of taking part in something

When first initiating discussions around goal setting some of the goals we set may include:

  • I want my child to improve their core strength and their coordination

  • I want my child to improve their gross and fine motor skills

  • I want my child to improve their behaviour and attention

While these goals are absolutely relevant to a child's needs and why they are partaking in therapy, they are not meaningful or measurable, making them difficult to track. We therefore use these base level goals and build on them by asking questions such as 'why?' and 'for what purpose?'

When using the example of 'improving core strength and coordination' we might ask a question to the parent such as; for what purpose does your child need to improve their core strength?' by which parents may answer with the following:

  • My child needs to build core strength so that they can play on the playground with their friends.

  • My child needs to build core strength so that they can participate in swimming carnival

  • My child needs to build their core strength so that they can participate in PE

  • My child needs to build their core strength so that they can maintain good posture during mealtimes and at school

Each of the above goals now have 3 key benefits over the initial goals that were set:

  1. They provide more meaning, purpose and context to the family reminding them why the goals are being set and giving them something practical to work towards.

  2. They provide opportunities for more solutions to be explored to achieve the goal

  3. They are measurable as there is now a task or activity that we can measure the child's ability against to determine how they are travelling with achieving their goal.

Making goals meaningful

How do you think a child would react if we told them, "Today, we're going to work on your core strength and coordination"? Probably not very excited or motivated, right? Now, compare that to saying, "Today, we're going to help you learn to throw and catch a ball."

Setting goals with a clear purpose and focusing on the child's abilities and involvement make those goals feel real, personal, and meaningful to the child and their family.

Moreover, when we choose a specific context for the child to achieve the goal, it becomes even more concrete and tangible. It provides clear expectations of the situations or environments where we hope the child will succeed in reaching that goal.

Creating opportunity for more solutions

Improving core strength and coordination should not be seen as the ultimate goal in itself; rather, it is more appropriately considered as a treatment strategy to help your child achieve their functional goals. It is just one approach among many that can be used to enhance a child's overall functional abilities.

To illustrate, suppose the family's objective is to enable their child to sit upright and use their hands effectively during playtime. In this case, working on the child's core strength and coordination through specific exercises is just one of several potential options to support them in reaching this functional goal. It's crucial to recognize that different strategies and interventions can be employed, tailored to the child's unique needs and circumstances, to maximise their progress toward their desired functional outcomes.


Setting a goal of "improving core strength and coordination" lacks a clear outcome or endpoint, making it difficult to determine when it has been achieved. The vague nature of this goal makes it challenging to measure progress and success effectively.

On the other hand, when the goal is something specific like "learning to throw and catch a ball," it becomes much easier to recognize when the child has achieved it. The accomplishment is clear and evident - they can throw and catch a ball!

Similarly, if the child's goal is to "learn to climb on the playground," once they are able to do so successfully, it's evident that the goal has been achieved, and it's time to move on to a new goal.

Having well-defined, concrete goals allows for better tracking of progress and provides a clear sense of accomplishment when the child reaches those objectives. This clarity also helps in determining when it's appropriate to set new challenges and objectives for the child's continued growth and development.

Why are functional goals important?

Having measurable goals that reflect your child's progress is of utmost importance when dealing with the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme). The NDIS requires that we can demonstrate the value and achievements resulting from the therapies your child is receiving. Thus, how you articulate your child's goals becomes crucial in proving the improvements they have made within their NDIS plan and how these improvements contribute to their overall function and participation.

Crafting meaningful and measurable goals may require some practice, but it's essential to feel confident in doing so. This blog post aims to assist you in formulating goals that can truly make a positive impact on your child's life and celebrate their achievements when they are reached. However, if you find yourself needing assistance in deciding on or wording your child's goals, don't hesitate to talk to the team at Flipper! We can help with providing appropriate guidance on how to set goals for your child.

Visit our website or contact us to find out more!

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