It is common for children with special needs or learning disabilities to lack motivation. This is many times due to low levels of confidence and self esteem. I believe that there is nothing more important for any child than to teach them to love learning and this is especially true for children that many times have to work harder than other kids in their class.
- Take into account the way in which your child learns. My son can’t sit still, for him it is very hard to sit down in a desk. He is a kinesthetic learner, which means he learns best while carrying out an activity that requires body movement and action. There are four basic types of learners: visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic. While types may overlap, visual learners tend to work best with visual stimuli, while auditory learners relate best to lecture-techniques and verbal material. Tactile-oriented students absorb new information most easily through their sense of touch, such as when tracing letters made from sandpaper. It’s all about being creative and finding ways to modify the lesson in order to fit your child’s needs and style of learning instead of trying to force your child to learn in a way that is difficult for him.
- Be sure to recognize and praise all efforts and improvements. Start by understanding where you child is in terms of knowledge of the subject you will be working on. That will let you build up on what he already knows and will give your child more opportunities to experience success. Give immediate feedback for being on task, for completing steps, for making a sincere effort and for all improvement at every opportunity. Try not to use a reward system that involves prizes or points because your child will focus on the rewards. Instead, verbally praise him and focus on his success. Do not overpraise, always be honest and give your child the opportunity to improve and correct mistakes while keeping a positive approach over a negative or critical one. Teaching him that figuring out problems is important will help him turn frustration into focus.
- Emphasize strengths. Always focus on your child’s abilities not on his disabilities. Most times when people see children with a disability they focus on what they can not do. As parents, we need to teach our child that everyone has strengths and weaknesses and we must build up their self esteem by concentrating on the things they are good at.
- Focus on the learning experience. Instead of focusing on outcomes, talk to your child about the learning experience. What do they enjoy? What sparks their interest? Let them know that we are all learning and that you don’t have all the answers. Involve your child in the search for answers turning learning into an adventure of discovery instead of a task.
- Leverage your child’s interests. Make activities and learning relevant to your child by using their interests. My daughter loves animals, so when she is struggling with math concepts we use animals to illustrate them. For example: if the problem involves adding marbles I change marbles into puppies and that sparks her interest and keeps her focused long enough for me to explain the problem to her. This also makes learning a lot more fun. Share with your child’s teachers his favorite topic and discuss ways to accommodate his special interest in his daily school work and home assignments.
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