Motivating children with autism can be a challenging but important task because children with autism generally have limited and fixated interest in the things they like. By creating positive associations and experiences with a variety of tasks, children with autism will be more likely to be receptive toward new learning experiences and develop new interests and academic, social and even life skills.
As parents, it can be heartbreaking to constantly see your child get increasingly frustrated and exasperated as they struggle to complete a novel or difficult task. As such, our first instinct might be to protect the child from making all these mistakes either by removing the task completely, or completing the task on behalf of the child. However, this takes away the child’s learning experience and reinforces negative behaviour whenever the child sees a new task or feels like a task is too difficult.
Here are some ways you can help your child learn from failure:
If you see that your child is beginning to whine, protest, or escape from a new or difficult task, you can help by immediately prompting the right response. For example if you are teaching your child to give you a card with the number five, you can point at the card while telling your child “Can you give me the number five?”. When the child gives you the right card, immediately praise him/her by saying something like “Awesome! Very good giving me the number 5!”
You can put the card back on the table and ask the child to give you the same card again without prompting. This allows the child to learn without actually making mistakes which can help reduce negative associations with a task.
2: Teaching your child to ask for help
Some children may not know how to ask for help when they face a difficult task, so they get angry, throw tantrums and refuse to complete their task. By teaching them to ask for help, it provides them with the assurance that it is okay to make mistakes because they can ask for help if they are unsure of something.
3: Always reinforce your child by praising them
Like adults, children also need to feel validated in order to feel motivated to persevere despite failure. By praising your child despite their mistakes, you increase the likelihood of your child learning from failure. For example, if your child makes a mistake, you could encourage them by saying “Good try. How about we try it this way?” or “ I like how you tried even though you were unsure.” Most importantly, remember to always praise your child regardless of whether or not the right response was prompted so that your child will feel encouraged to complete the task. Once they get a taste of what it feels like to complete a challenging task, it will subsequently serve as their motivation to succeed.
By using the above methods to create a positive learning experience for your child, you can increase their work tolerance and stimulate their interest in the task at hand which then motivates them to succeed despite failure. Creating a positive association with difficult tasks ensures that your child will not develop aversive feelings toward daunting tasks, and will ultimately reduce the likelihood of escape behaviours.
Always remember that language and tone of voice are very powerful tools in encouraging children. Use kind and encouraging words, and always remember to praise them for a job well done!
Written by Cheryl.