Children who have special needs are capable of achieving great things; they just require additional encouragement and guidance to do so.
Thankfully there are a multitude of ways to give them the motivation they need to succeed, so here are a selection of useful strategies to put into practice yourself, whether you are an eager educator or a parent.
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Each person who has intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) is invariably going to require a unique approach in order to unlock their ambitions and push them to the pinnacle of their potential, so working with support groups which have this level of flexibility in mind is sensible.
Choosing I/DD services that are based on person-centered planning is worthwhile in this context, as they enable individual goals to be set for special needs kids, rather than pushing them towards cookie cutter targets that might not gel with their particular preferences and personalities.
Choose impactful external rewards
Rewarding any child when they complete a particular task that they are working on is an effective tactic, and it can be especially useful when it comes to motivating those kids who have special needs in an educational setting.
The reward does not necessarily need to be tangible; often verbal praise is enough of a motivator. However, it is also a good idea to scale the scope of the reward to meet the challenge that the child has overcome, in recognition of the effort they have expended to reach their goal. This is all the more pertinent if the task at hand might be made more complicated because of their specific disability.
Pick work that is suited to their ability level
This is one of the toughest things for parents and educators of special needs kids to get right, but it is also essential for ensuring they are motivated and engaged by any tasks they are faced with.
The real challenge is in identifying exactly the right level of work which will be tricky enough to hold their attention, without being too simple and thus not providing enough intellectual friction to keep them on track.
Underestimating a child’s abilities is more commonly the issue than overestimating them, so bear this in mind when deciding on which type of work to set.
Demonstrate that work is relevant to real life
Children with special needs may be more sensitive than most to the idea that the work they are doing may not be applicable to their life away from the classroom, which of course varies by subject.
Rather than seeing this as an obstacle, it should actually be conceived of as an opportunity to present them with work which they will enjoy and engage with more readily because it can be proven to have relevance to the real world outside of their studies.
By showing them that what they have learned can be applied elsewhere straight away, you will create a strong link which will in turn give them the motivation to keep plugging away, because the results of the learning will be immediately obvious.
Compartmentalize complex tasks to make them simpler to digest
Last of all, avoid overwhelming the children with a deluge of instructions at the beginning of any task, as they may struggle to connect with all of these concepts if they are presented in one torrent. Taking a step by step approach and ensuring that they have grasped each aspect individually is preferable, and deploying simple language is a must.
Your aim should be to adapt your strategies according to what works best for the individual child, and be invested in their own motivation levels yourself to get the results you want.