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5 Simple Motivation Techniques

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By: Suzie Dalien, M.Ed.

5 Simple Motivation Techniques | Special Education Resource

In today’s world… many children lack motivation especially when it comes to learning new things. Having a child with special needs can increase the need for a proactive approach. You first need to focus on your child’s abilities and NOT disabilities.  Some children often have low self-esteem; others are mentally fragile or just simply frustrated.  Most children need a GIANT boost in their confidence and self-esteem in order for them to try something new.  They need motivators in place to help them feel like they CAN DO anything they set their minds to.  These motivators can help build up or build back their self-esteem. Every child should be set up for success and not failure.

5 Simple Motivation Techniques That Are Often Overlooked

1. Praise and positive attention

Praise and positive attention are the most effective rewards for children. They help children make a connection between what they are learning and what they have accomplished.  They also reinforce good behaviors on the spot. Some examples would be to give constant reminders of how good they are doing (verbal) or just simply become excited (nonverbal) when your little one accomplishes a small task or problem. Always recognize all attempts of improving.

2. Reward charts

Reward charts are powerful, visual ways for children to see their success. Use a reward chart to award stickers for anything from good behavior or academic progress. When your child has collected enough stickers to fill the chart, they are rewarded with some type of treat.  Some ideas might be free computer time, a trip to the park, their favorite snack, fun art supplies or maybe some type of small toy.  It can be anything your child is interested in and it doesn’t have to be expensive.  Reward charts can be as simple as a dot-to-dot chart, a sticker chart, or even a tally sheet. Just make it simple to understand.

3. Token reinforcement

Token reinforcements are another great way to motivate children. The token reinforcement method is typically used to increase appropriate behavior. A token (i.e. coins, puzzle pieces, Scrabble tiles, balls, stickers, rubber toys, etc.) is given to your child following appropriate behavior. You can tie this in with learning as well; just provide the token after every correct answer or problem. These can be super fun if you make them individualized (i.e. tape fun pictures to poker chips, their favorite stickers, have them help make the tokens by decorating them). After a predetermined number of tokens are collected they can be traded for a reinforcer. Some reinforcers might be a special activity, toy, treat or something meaningful to your child.

In my classroom, I would have a variety of items students could earn depending on the amount of tokens they had (along with their age and interests).  Some of the students would save their tokens to earn a LARGE prize. Some examples would be 5 tokens for a small piece of candy (Jolly Rancher), 10 tokens for a candy bar or 30 tokens for a special lunch!

4. Create an award system

Award systems are a great tool to use for motivating all ages of children. Awards tend to be less expensive for younger children (stickers, their favorite snack or a special day with you). As children get older, the award may change but concept remains the same. Offer an award if your child completes the assigned work or gets so many items correct. You can make handmade awards that say something like “Good job” or “Keep up the good work!”

5. Make the learning environment fun

Every single child in this world LOVES to have fun! Creating a fun learning environment will help motivate your child to learn. Try turning the lesson into a simple memory game, trivia game, singing game or involve one of their interests. For example, if your child is going through a phase in which they love birds, create math problems that involve birds or read books about birds.  Or you can take a hike outside to look at birds. You can make up a bird song that involves words related to what your child is learning. Get creative and tie in some type of art project (i.e. Pinterest).  You can even use technology that is both fun and educational.



This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 12th, 2014 at and is filed under Special Needs Tips And Techniques and tagged as . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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