Tuesday, September 23, 2014

We Don't Do Goals

Every new therapy or program starts with a therapist asking me this question:
"And what are your goals for her?"

And for seven years my response has been:
"None.  We don't do goals."

And then there is typically a pause as the therapist tries to figure out what to do with my response.

I can usually hear their wheels spinning:
No goals?  That's not how this works. Should I report these parents? I have to have goals! That's what I was taught in therapy school:first set goals.  How do I do my work without goals? How do I know I am effective without goals?  How do I show I am making progress without goals?  How do I write my progress notes? How do I do billing? How do I go home at night and feel good about myself if my clients didn't achieve my goals?

My answer to them is: I don't know. I guess you will have to figure that out on your own if you want to work with us - perhaps go to therapy and set yourself some goals?

But for us, we don't do goals for our daughter. Period.

I don't believe in setting artificial time frames on developmental milestones I'm not even sure she was created to accomplish. That seems totally unfair, a complete set up, why would I do that to her or us?

Here is just one example of why I feel this way:

Julia started walking at age 7.  That's right, read it again, age 7.  Awesome- right? Go Jules!

But most kids start walking around age one, and goals are based on what most kids do. Which means that we potentially could have had a goal in place for her to walk for SIX YEARS.

Which also means, had we done this, we would have had SIX YEARS of a FAILED goal.

But Julia didn't fail.  So what that really would mean is that we would have had six years of failing her by having the WRONG goal.  Or we would have started with that goal and then at some point given up on it (because if kids aren't walking at a certain age then they won't ever walk - right?). So either way we are creating a situation for ourselves where we have in some way failed or given up on her- why would we ever want to do that?

Julia wasn't meant to walk at age 1.
Julia wasn't meant to walk at age 2.
Julia wasn't meant to walk at age 3, or 4, or 5, or 6.

She walked at 7, right when she was supposed to.

And it had absolutely nothing to do with us having or not having a goal for her.
It had to do with her being ready to walk.

Goals seem artificial to me. How do we know she was made to do the things other kids end up doing - and why would we want that anyway? We want her to be her.  Why set up expectations that may not even be realistic for her when we could instead just enjoy her for who she is and what she is doing - right now, in this moment - without the worry of where we are going, what level of development she may achieve, and if at our next therapy review meeting we are going to have met or not met goals. Who cares!?!?

Is she loved? Is she cared for? Is she embraced for who she is? That's enough.

It's not that I don't get the point of goals in general. My entire professional career is based on goals. They can be helpful in many situations, but most of those situations are short term - they've got an end point.  Julia doesn't fall into a "short term" / "end point" category though. If we allowed it, she could be in therapy with goals in place to achieve the next thing for her entire life.

But the thing is, I don't want her life to be one long therapy session. I don't want her life to be measured in goal achievement. I want her life to be her life. And I want to cheer her on for every part of it, not wasting one second assessing why something someone else inaccurately thought should happen didn't. Nobody's got time for that!


  1. Almost eighteen years ago, a baby girl was born weighing 2lbs to a dad in jail for drugs and A mother possibly drug affected also. This baby fought for her life through many surgeries, her mother basically abandoned her in the hospital, and survived a year and a half before a couple, looking for a special needs child To foster/adopt, walked into her hospital room. Rachael had a grim future according to the doctors, who gave a prognosis of blindness, deafness, muteness, and a future in a vegetative state was their best case scenario. Rachael had a tracheotomy, was on oxygen 24/7 and a stomach tube for frequent feelings, was unable to life her head, huge from years of steroids, turn over or anything else she should have done by one and a half. My cousins were discouraged from taking her at all, but my cousin said, "The moment I saw Rachael God showed me she was MY daughter." Jennifer would not back down and took that baby girl home with her. The transformation was almost Instant. Rachael resoonded to

  2. Oops. Rachael responded to their voices, much like a newborn, and within a few months was holding her head up and rolling over. That was just the beginning. A year after they fostered her, the adoption was finalized. She was deemed not blind, not death, and she "found her voice," too. At four, I watched while holding my breath as she pushed herself up into a standing position and walked the length of her momma's living room. Our faith has grown tremendously as we've watched God "heal" this child. She is eighteen and doing almost everything doctors predicted would be impossible for her. She's significantly impaired, think eight or nine year old level, but she is not blind, deaf, mute, no longer on oxygen or stomach tube, and she is functional. She is independent, a "singer," a cheerleader, a lover of Barbie dolls, hello kitty, music.... Her next ambition is to be on The Voice. Lol. We can't imagine our lives without Rachael and I am so thankful my cousins did not listen to those discouraging doctors, social workers, and instead listened to that still, small voice that whispered, "This is your daughter." God bless your sweet family, especially Julia. And I am deeply sorry about Pearl and Joy.