SMART Social Goals

Writing social goals can be an incredibly challenging task. For starters how do you know what goals to prioritize? Do you pick something out of a curriculum, and if so which curriculum? Do you individualize based on how you see the learner performing socially, if so, how do you know what to focus on? How do you know when you’ve selected the most meaningful social goal?

Consider asking and answering the following questions before identifying and committing to a social goal for a learner.

  • Is the goal age and developmentally appropriate?
  • Is the goal socially meaningful for the learner?
  • Is the goal too challenging or not challenging enough?
  • Can this goal be defined objectively?
  • Does the learner have the foundational pre-requisite skills to work on this goal?
  • Will this goal make a difference in the learners’ day-to-day social interactions if mastered?

Answering these questions is the first step to determining whether the goal you are selecting is appropriate for the learner. Once you’ve settled on a goal or set of goals, move on to checking if the goals align with the criteria for SMART Goals.

SMART Goals detail the results that will be accomplished and clearly define what the result will look or sound like.

SMART Goals are

  • Specific – define what will be accomplished in an objective manner
  • Measurable – defines how a goal will be kept track of and evaluated over time
  • Achievable – determines whether the goal is doable with the skills and resources available
  • Relevant – determines the importance of the goal and how it fits in with broader goals
  • Time Bound – sets clear time-based criteria for achieving the goal

Let’s look at a SMART Goal and break it down!

Joey will independently request to take a turn with a toy by calling the peer’s name, asking for a turn, and waiting for a response in 4 out of 5 observed opportunities across 5 consecutive observation days.

Let’s see if this goal has all the SMART Goal components…

  • Specific: This goal is specific. Anyone who observes can see an occurrence or nonoccurrence of the behavior being demonstrated.
  • Measurable: The goal is measured by observing and marking down the number of opportunities the skill is demonstrated out of 5 observed opportunities to respond.
  • Achievable: The goal is achievable if this learner has the foundational skills of waiting and tolerating delay and denied access to requests.
  • Relevant: This goal is relevant because grabbing and other problem behaviors intended to get access to a turn are socially stigmatizing and detrimental to social relationships and friendships.
  • Time Bound: This goal is time bound because it sets clear criteria for mastery, as in the skill must be demonstrated for five consecutive days to be mastered.

Happy Goal Writing!

Hitchcock, C., Chavira, D., Stein, M. (2009) Recent findings in social phobia among children and adolescents. Journal of Psychiatry and Related Science, 46(1), 34-44.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Social anxiety disorder. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved March 1, 2022, from

About the Author

Justyna Balzar, M.Ed. BCBA LBA (CT) Co-Founder & CEO

Justyna Balzar has over 15 years experience with learners of varying profiles between the ages of 3 to 18 across multiple settings. She received her Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA) certification in 2014 from Florida Institute of Technology, her Master in Curriculum and Education in Applied Behavior Analysis from Arizona State University, followed by her BCBA certification in 2016.