When we received the global developmental delay and hypermobility diagnoses for our boys it set us off on a path of never-ending therapy.
Their diagnoses were two-and-a-half years apart but each time we were hit with a deluge of ‘homework’ which is updated on a regular basis.
The physio gave us exercises for improving mobility and strengthening muscles to help them learn to walk. Once they were on their feet, there was another set of guidelines for helping them to develop post-walking skills like running, jumping, stepping up and down and hopping.
The speech and language therapist gave us activities to improve their understanding and speech.
Meanwhile, the occupational therapist had a list of activities to help develop their fine motor skills.
It was all – and still can be – very overwhelming. There doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to practice everything and that’s if the Bears are willing to engage.
Motivation is key when practising all these skills because they don’t come easily. For children with physical and learning difficulties these activities are hard. They can take a lot of brain power and energy.
Big Bear will resist if he thinks I’m trying to teach him something and gives up very easily if he can’t do it. Little Bear loves playing by himself and generally will dig his heels in if I try to get him to do something that isn’t his idea.
However, there are some tips for motivating your children to get things done. The Bears are so different that something which works for Big Bear might not work for Little Bear and vice versa. It’s worth trying different methods to see what helps you.
Use positive reinforcement
Praising a child for every right action made or giving him another try when he gave a wrong answer are positive reinforcements. It will encourage more participation from the child and open up communication between you. For younger children, clapping and bubbles can work wonders for their motivation and self esteem.
Let them choose their own activity
Allow them to choose the activity they want to do – you could give them a couple of choices – and join in with them. Subtly bring in some of their learning objectives as they play. They are much more likely to engage if they think it was their idea in the first place.
Reward children with favourite toys, stickers or bubbles
Give them something to strive for by giving them something they truly like every time they accomplish something.
Simple and repetitive phrases can help in developing the language skills of children with additional needs. It helps them change monotone speech patterns by matching their voice to music rhythms. It can also promote social interaction by motivating them to join group activities.
Use their interests as motivation
Do you struggle to get your child to sit still for activities? If they have a favourite character, print out a picture and stick it on the seat of their chair to encourage them to sit at the table. Seat them with their back to the wall so there is less room to escape.
Keep tasks short
Little and often is best. A child will become bored, restless and resistant if made to sit still for too. long. Try using a visual timer, like a digital or sand timer, or even just a clock, and gradually increase the length of the task each time.
Regularly introduce new fun activities
Studies showed that children with additional needs learn faster, stay focused and are generally more behaved when fun tasks are regularly changed.
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For more motivational advice, visit 5 tips for homework success for children with additional needs