How to motivate a special child? Find a child therapist or child psychiatrist in Mumbai
Motivating a Special Child
It’s fairly difficult to stay consistent at something that you are finding difficult to do. Sometimes, when one doesn’t understand something, they are tempted to give it up, to do away with it. Children require approval and acceptance from their loved ones. The whole world is a classroom for them, constantly learning new information, connecting the dots of how the world works and adapting from people around them. Being a child is anything but simple. Being a special child seems to be far from it. As a special child, one would face difficulties in daily tasks. Of course, children may differ largely in their individual strengths and weaknesses, but the weaknesses need to be dealt with care.
Being unable to do certain tasks may be very challenging for a special child. They may find it difficult to either walk, talk, play, run, make friends or do activities that others would take for granted. Being a neurotypical person entails a lot of privileges that most people overlook. The world and society at large are almost designed for the neurotypical, with little space for the neurodivergent. This ensures that special children learn at an early age that they are different from the norm and might feel a sense of inadequacy. Instead of coming from a place of inclusion, one might tend to approach such a situation with an attitude of superiority. This would lead to caregivers and loved ones feeling frustrated at what their special child CANNOT do, frequently snapping at their child, pointing out their flaws. This is no different from the outside world, where others may treat the child as inferior, different, unworthy of accompaniment and so on.
Such an exclusion from society may leave a special child feeling already demotivated. When you add their own thoughts to the mix, it may worsen the situation. The child, being unable to perform a task that others are doing effortlessly may feel inadequate, incapable and dependent. Providing external encouragement to them becomes imperative in such cases. So, the question to be addressed now is, how does one do that? Motivation can come in so many different forms, small or big.
- Highlighting the positives: Most people in the child’s life may be pointing out the child’s mistakes and weaknesses. Although this may be with the intent to work on them, it may end up discouraging the child. Everyone likes to be praised and no child is different. So, a child’s strengths must be highlighted time and again, to help them feel worthy and encouraged.
- Expectations: Special children may feel burdened by the number of things they are expected to learn and perform, which may be out of their comfort zone or make them overwhelmed. The key to dealing with this is to set goals that the child perceives as within reach. Realistic goals increase motivation and help us to keep going.
- Celebration: Most achievements/milestones common to neurotypical children are taken for granted and hence, overlooked in special children. The child must learn that an achievement is an achievement irrespective of its magnitude. So, celebrating small successes may help the child keep going and wanting to learn more.
- Innovation: Every child has a unique way of learning. It is up to the child’s parents and teachers to find one that most suits the child. Innovative learning methods utilizing the child’s strengths and working on their weaknesses. This may be to use technology, art, craft, music, dance, videos, books, picture books, play, role-play or assisted communication devices. To each child, their own.
- Rewards: As behaviourism dictates, we are capable to unlearning and relearning. Setting up a series of rewards may encourage a child to either perform some desirable behaviours or get rid of undesirable behaviours. Using a pre-decided system of rewards can help the child understand their goals and motivate them to work towards it.
- Acceptance: It is crucial that caregivers not ridicule their child for their flaws. This may create a fear of failure within the child. What one must aim at instead, is to teach children to accept failure. When failure is not seen as the end of the world, the child remains motivated despite setbacks.
- Boundaries: Even children have boundaries that must be respected. Special children may have activities that they dislike- such as social activities. Motivating a child may require that the activities are catered to them, and not a force of something that they do not wish to do. Although social skills need to be developed to be able to thrive, it is a process that may be done gradually, which helps the child keep motivated to learn them.
Although parents, family members and teachers mean well most of the time, sometimes it is necessary to recognize their own limitations. Sometimes, good intent may not be the only factor that weighs in. Caregivers must understand that their contribution, although fully imperative, may fall short. In such cases, seeking professional help to teach the child and learn some strategies themselves must always remain an open option. Stigma needn’t hold a budding child back.
If you think your child could be going through mental concern, you can speak to a child therapist. Mpower, a mental health initiative by Aditya Birla Education Trust, has an experienced team of psychologist, psychiatrist, child therapist, and various other counsellors available at various locations like Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore. Also, mental health centre is opening up soon in Pune.
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