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  • Writer's pictureChristine McCarty


What motivates you? What gets you out of bed every morning and pushes through another day? Some would say desire to achieve, gratitude to what life has to offer you, and even hope for a better future. For a special needs child, motivation is key in achieving the unthinkable. Their motivation drivers may look different, but they come into play more than I ever could have imagined. Finding the proper motivational techniques or “reinforcers” have been the driving force in Addy’s progress. Note - please do not think we got here without various failures before finding the right formula.

A recent article published by Special Learning dives into different methods on how to motivate a special needs child. “Children with Autism should be given small rewards every time they give appropriate responses. These ‘reinforcers’ or rewards have to be interesting enough to a child to serve as motivation and should be based on a child’s personal interests and preferences. These rewards may help in the development of their “social, language, and behavioral skills.”

Listed below are some of the methods mentioned in the article and why I believe they have been effective motivational techniques in Addy’s case.

  • Use of Positive Reinforcement: Addy thrives on attention and when we praise her for every right action made, she continues to thrive by making good choices in addition to working harder to complete tasks.

  • Encourage Activities Such as ‘Social Stories’ and ‘Scripting’: These have helped in behavioral development by promoting appropriate behavior and social interaction. We read these stories with her repeatedly until she understands the concepts.

  • Allow Them to Choose Their Own Activity: When faced with a difficult task or learning an objective, we often give her a choice, so the control is in her hands. “Control” or at least the perception of “control” seems to lessen the frustration and refusal to do something. This truly has been a game changer for Addy!

  • Use Play Therapy: Addy is often motivated by using teaching skills that promote play and self-expression. This type of therapy provides her with a sense of accomplishment.

  • Reward Chart: I don’t leave home without this! Every day, Addy can earn a sticker for good behavior, making the right choices and doing her best. After five stickers she gets a prize. The trick is to keep it simple and reward them with something they truly like every time they accomplish the goal/task.

Again, these are what have and are currently working for Addy. Please always consult with your doctor/therapist to ensure what’s right for your child. Remember, motivation looks different to everyone.

Much love,

Raising Addy

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