Can children identify and achieve goals for intervention? A randomized trial comparing two goal-setting approaches

Dev Med Child Neurol. 2016 Jun;58(6):589-96. doi: 10.1111/dmcn.12925. Epub 2015 Sep 16.


Aim: The efficacy of two different goal-setting approaches (children's self-identified goals and goals identified by parents) were compared on a goal-directed, task-oriented intervention.

Method: In this assessor-blinded parallel randomized trial, 34 children with disabilities (13 males, 21 females; mean age 9y, SD 1y 4mo) were randomized using concealed allocation to one of two 8-week, goal-directed, task-oriented intervention groups with different goal-setting approaches: (1) children's self-identified goals (n=18) using the Perceived Efficacy and Goal-Setting System, or (2) goals identified by parents (n=16) using the Canadian Occupational Performance Measure (COPM). Participants were recruited through eight paediatric rehabilitation centres and randomized between October 2011 and May 2013. The primary outcome measure was the Goal Attainment Scaling and the secondary measure, the COPM performance scale (COPM-P). Data were collected pre- and post-intervention and at the 5-month follow-up.

Results: There was no evidence of a difference in mean characteristics at baseline between groups. There was evidence of an increase in mean goal attainment (mean T score) in both groups after intervention (child-goal group: estimated mean difference [EMD] 27.84, 95% CI 22.93-32.76; parent-goal group: EMD 21.42, 95% CI 16.16-26.67). There was no evidence of a difference in the mean T scores post-intervention between the two groups (EMD 6.42, 95% CI -0.80 to 13.65). These results were sustained at the 5-month follow-up.

Interpretation: Children's self-identified goals are achievable to the same extent as parent-identified goals and remain stable over time. Thus children can be trusted to identify their own goals for intervention, thereby influencing their involvement in their intervention programmes.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / rehabilitation*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disabled Children / rehabilitation*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Goals*
  • Humans
  • Learning Disabilities / rehabilitation*
  • Male
  • Movement Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Occupational Therapy / methods*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / methods*
  • Parents
  • Patient Participation