Kymberly Martin

Goal setting tool for people with autism

An illustrated goal setting tool for adolescents and adults on the autism spectrum has been created to give them a voice in planning their future. It was developed by Autism Queensland researchers, in collaboration with the Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism who teamed up with students from the Studio G creative program.


The Adolescent/Adult Goal Setting Tool (AAGST) comprises a pack of 74 illustrated goal cards divided into nine categories. These include social relationships, self-care and home living, study and training, employment, health and fitness, community access and participation, communication, finances, and emotional wellbeing.

The AAGST cards are sorted according to the person’s goals, prioritised and personalised into what each goal means for them. A planning sheet includes an outline of the steps required to achieve their goals, as well as setting review dates to track progress or update goals.

The AAGST is suitable for use for NDIS Planning, schools facilitating post-school transition planning for students, employment agencies, disability service providers, therapists supporting adolescents and adults on the autism spectrum with goal planning, individuals and their families.


The cards illustrations were created by autistic adult and former Studio G participant David Smith, who started on the AAGST at the end of 2016 with his mentor, Jermu Hautsolo. “It was very rewarding when I came back to Studio G as a mentor and got to see the AAGST being trialed with the participants and seeing how useful the tool was,” he said.

Autism Queensland, research and development manager, Dr Jill Ashburner, said people with the lived experience of autism were involved in all aspects of the AAGST’s development.

“During the first research phase, a list of items was generated in collaboration with members of the Australia and New Zealand Autistic Self Advocacy Network who suggested additions such as disclosure of autistic identity, self-advocacy and networking within the autistic community,” she said.

Over the four stages of research, 76 people on the spectrum were involved in either providing feedback on the goal cards or trialing the goal setting tool. Feedback was also gathered from 34 family members and eight professional staff who supported people on the spectrum to use the tool.

Jermu Hautsolo and David Smith

Changes were also made to the manual to enhance the tool’s accessibility to a broad range of people, with a wide range of abilities ranging from intellectual disability to above average intelligence and ages ranging from 14 to 60 years.

“Many of the goals are highly abstract in nature,” she said. “For example, ‘exploring/meeting spiritual needs’ is an important goal with very different meanings for different people.

“David demonstrated remarkable creativity and imagination in coming up with images that successfully communicate abstract ideas,” Ashburner said.

The tool is available for purchase from the Autism Queensland website:

Autism Queensland is currently offering places in the Studio G program in Mackay and at the Gold Coast. Further information is available at:

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