Challenging Children With Special Needs
by Stanley I. Greenspan, M.D.
Here are some suggestions for helping children with learning challenges "take the next step" and move closer to learning goals:
- Engage the child emotionally. If you consistently connect with the child by following his lead in play, and by staying on his wavelength, encouraging and supporting him every step of the way, the child will be enticed to take on the carefully considered challenges you present to him. For example, if a child is especially sensitive to sound, expose him to a gradually increasing range of sounds, all the while supporting him with your warm responses and reassurance. At the same time, encourage the child's assertiveness so that he feels comfortable operating that new musical toy and seeking out new and interesting auditory experiences on his own.
- Make sure that the child is gradually using most of his senses. For example, if a child has a visual-processing difficulty, begin by offering him activities that draw on his other senses, including hearing, smell, or touch, as a way to engage him. And gradually introduce simple visual-processing experiences. As the child comes to recognize that he can succeed, he will feel more competent and be more inclined to participate in activities he finds challenging.
- Increase challenges in manageable, easy steps so children are successful 70 to 75% of the time. Again, keep in mind that it is important to use warm and caring words of encouragement and lively praise as children attempt to meet each new challenge.