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with Heather Gilmore, MSW, LLMSW, BCBA

Tips for Selecting Treatment Goals for Children

When working with children or families in a treatment setting, there are some important things to consider when developing goals for the client.

Before selecting goals, it is important to do a thorough assessment of the child’s current level of functioning. This can be completed in a variety of ways. Formal assessment tools, observations, interviews with relevant people, and naturally occurring interactions can all provide useful information about a child’s current level of functioning.

After completing the assessment, treatment goals are to be developed. Treatment goals should be prioritized and selected carefully. A child cannot work on ALL his “missing skills” at one time.

Address Concerns Related to Safety

First, be sure to address any safety concerns that might threaten the physical safety of the child and/or of other people. This could be things like a running into the street, not being aware of traffic in parking lots, aggression, or self-harm.

Address Concerns Related to Basic Human Needs

It can also be helpful to consider the child’s basic needs. Are they adequately supplied with and accepting of various stimuli that support their basic needs as a human being? Consider the following:

  • Is the child eating an acceptable amount and variety of food? Is there a medical concern related to food intake that should be addressed?
  • Is the child hydrated (or dehydrated)? Mental abilities can be impacted by dehydration which then can impact behavior and learning.
  • Is the child sleeping well? Sleep issues can contribute to poor executive functioning skills which relates to behavioral functioning and self-regulation.

Address Goals that Will Enhance the Child’s Well-being

Once safety and basic needs related goals are identified, you can look at goals that will improve the child’s potential for accessing reinforcement in their everyday lives. Some examples of goals related to this idea include manding skills (requesting what the child wants in an appropriate manner) and other communication skills like initiating conversations or responding to another person’s verbal behavior.

Goals should be individualized to the child and what would promote their personal well-being and development.

Address Goals that Enhance the Child’s Independence in Daily Life

Identify goals that will help the child to perform tasks of daily living more independently. All children need assistance with daily living tasks to some degree and for differing amounts of time during their lives. Particularly, children with more severe disabilities may need chronic, long-term assistance with certain tasks. However, it is important to consider which skills could and should be performed more independently by the child you are teaching.

Consider the tasks that a child could reasonably learn to do more independently, such as getting dressed, brushing their teeth, putting shoes on, putting a coat on, preparing snacks, helping with household chores, taking care of his belongings, taking care of his body and personal hygiene, etc.

Tips for Identifying Goals to Work on with Children

When providing intervention for children or simply trying to teach them new skills as a parent or a teacher, there are some guidelines that can help you to identify appropriate and meaningful goals for the child. As mentioned above, consider the following tips when selecting treatment goals for children:

  • Consider safety concerns
  • Consider basic human needs
  • Address goals that enhance the child’s well-being
  • Address goals that enhance independence in daily life


Benton D. (2011). Dehydration influences mood and cognition: a plausible hypothesis?. Nutrients, 3(5), 555–573. doi:10.3390/nu3050555

Turnbull, K., Reid, G. J., & Morton, J. B. (2013). Behavioral Sleep Problems and their Potential Impact on Developing Executive Function in Children. Sleep, 36(7), 1077–1084. doi:10.5665/sleep.2814

Tips for Selecting Treatment Goals for Children

Heather Gilmore, MSW, BCBA

Heather is a freelance writer, Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), and social worker. Heather takes interest in topics related to parenting, children, families, personal development, health and wellness, applied behavior analysis, as well as Autism, ADHD, Depression and Anxiety. Contact Heather if you would like to inquire about obtaining her freelance writing services. You can view more articles and resources from Heather at and email her at [email protected] You can also advertise your autism services at one of Heather's websites: Heather is the developer of the "One-Year ABA Parent Training Curriculum."


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APA Reference
Gilmore, H. (2020). Tips for Selecting Treatment Goals for Children. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from