Positive Reinforcements For Your Child With Special Needs
By: Suzie Dalien, M.Ed.
“Don’t touch that!”
“Put that down!”
“I told you not to do that, why won’t you listen to me?”
“Ugh… you need to go to your room!”
Five minutes later, when everything has settled down, and your child is actually behaving…
They’re finally being good, so there’s no need to say anything… right?
In fact, NOTHING could be further from the truth…
Praise and encouragement are the building blocks of emotional and social development for all children, regardless of their special need or disability.
A child with special needs might often exhibit signs of intentional misbehavior or a disrespectful attitude, or have a physical setback that prevents them from learning in a traditional manner.
These attributes can lead to frustration, anger, tension and emotional outbursts from both you and your child, which is why it’s of utmost importance to remember that your child did not ask for these educational roadblocks; they are the product of unforeseen circumstance and not the problem of the child themselves.
“You always catch more flies with honey” is an old adage that aptly describes how positive reinforcement works for all individuals, especially children.
An uplifting attitude and positive encouragement goes a lot further in building a child’s confidence and self-esteem than does harmful imposition and hurtful expressions, which is why it’s vital to a child’s well-being to have a system of praise and rewards in place for each step on the path to not only educational success, but peace of mind.
Positive reinforcement has a proven record of improved results towards an end goal, so finding the right combination is essential to your child’s education.
Examples of Positive Reinforcement
The point of positive reinforcement is to set an excellent example for positive behaviors and is a useful tool for your child’s home and school environments. The specific set of rewards should differ depending on the child’s own personal motivators and preferences but should be geared towards a positive outcome at every turn.
Specific examples of positive reinforcement are:
Rewarding Good Behavior
This strategy is as simple in planning and execution as it sounds. Letting your child with special needs know when their behavior is acceptable is a great way to implement a good cycle of praise and encouragement subtly.
Your child will learn that good work gets rewarded, while negative or “naughty” actions don’t receive the same type of attention and gratification as the other.
If your child loves scratch ‘n sniff stickers, keep a stock of them handy while you do help with homework; after a particular goal is reached for the day/week/month, reward your child with a certain number of stickers, (ex. one sticker per page, or five stickers) for homework turned in on time.
Find the reward that piques your child’s curiosity, and let them know how much you appreciate their working towards a specific achievement.
Using Your Words and Actions
A bright smile, an encouraging pat on the back or a quick hug goes a long way in letting your child with special needs know you care about their work and development and gives them a needed boost of confidence each time.
Try incorporating phrases like, “Great job!” or “That was an outstanding effort!” into your language as positive indicators of good actions.
It’s often the intangible things we remember later on in life, and small gestures can go a long way.
Making It Fun
If there is one surefire way to engage a child’s interest while positively reinforcing a behavior or action, it’s through fun!
When you take the aspect of learning being “work” out of the environment, you can help your child with special needs, learn in a fun and engaging manner that doesn’t seem hard at all.
There is a multitude of ways to help you accomplish these goals. Some examples include;
- Board Games
- Interactive Software
- Create Games Together
No matter what constitutes fun for your child, there is a way to keep learning fresh and light.
Spending Some One-On-One Time
Between the demands of home, work and family, it might sometimes feel next to impossible to grab some quality time with your child, but remember that children who experience positive reinforcement regularly flourish in many educational and social areas.
Structure your day to include at least twenty minutes of personal time with your child, listening to their;
Children are eager to have their world and experiences recognized by those they love, and personal attention shows them a positive example of how to treat others.
They will feel more confident about interacting with social groups and build the self-esteem needed to succeed in school and life.
A child with special needs perceives the world differently than we do, which might be a difficult concept to grasp for those who are not afflicted in that particular way, so keep in mind that positive reinforcement despite the situation is the difference between scoring a win or suffering from a loss.
Different Types Of Positive Reinforcement
There are clear and definable definitions for each stage of reinforcement.
Primary Reinforcers are the tangible rewards for good behavior such as an ice cream treat, new book, or piggyback ride. These are the primary rewards for positive outcomes.
Secondary reinforcers are the ones that are learned, like verbal praise and social recognition and, when coupled with primary positive reinforcement, can be a powerful combination to getting the desired results.
Intrinsic reinforcement means the child will start to evaluate themselves and their own behavior, and reward themselves in some manner without outside support.
As this is not always possible for a child with special needs, it’s essential to use as many primary and secondary reinforcers as necessary to get the desired results.
Alternatively, special education tutoring is rapidly growing in popularity among those parents searching for additional tools and resources to help their child reach their excellence.
Special Education Resource focuses on molding the curriculum your child is already learning in a way that makes it more comfortable based on their specific learning needs. A child with special needs has unique talents and abilities that need to be celebrated, not judged, in order for them to feel not only good about themselves but their accomplishments, as well.
A kind word, small physical gesture, or token of appreciation teaches a lot more than momentary gratification for a job well done.
You are teaching the building blocks of life.
What type of positive reinforcements have you tried?
Let us know your experience in the comments below!
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