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Stay Motivated in Therapy

How to Keep a Child Motivated in Therapy

Motivation is a state that energizes, directs and sustains behavior and a key component to success in therapy.

The following are some strategies to help motivate clients in therapy:

Make learning fun. Making learning fun for a child increases his or her drive to participate in treatment tasks and, ultimately, to reach treatment goals. You can bring the fun factor in a variety of ways, including: make learning into a game, create hands on activities to target goals, and incorporate technology. Knowing a child’s individual interests and needs is crucial when determining how to makeHow to Keep Your Child Motivated In Therapy learning fun. High interest activities are more likely to increase engagement and effort; however, the activities you use must be driven toward a particular goal and meet the level of support required by the child to learn whatever skill you are targeting.

Use cooperation. Cooperation is working together to accomplish a shared goal. Research on learning shows that cooperation promotes student motivation, problem solving skills, higher-processing skills, self-esteem, and positive teacher-student relationships. Therefore, activities completed in small groups of children – or as a client-therapist team – most effectively foster motivation. So, engage in the same activity as your client and brainstorm, create, and collaborate on projects as an equal contributor.

Give praise. Praising hard work and perseverance, even if the child’s goal has not been met, increases his or her motivation to continue putting in work and effort to achieve goals. For more tips on how to praise effectively, see 5 Tips to Praise Your Child the Right Way.

Give feedback. Feedback is necessary to learning and has been shown to motivate learning. While positive feedback helps increase learner effort, as it draws attention to what the learner is doing correctly and fosters a positive association with the learning process. Therefore, initial feedback should draw attention to what your client is doing right or well – point out effective learning behaviors. After that, corrective feedback should focus on ineffective strategies that a student is using and error patterns (rather than specific errors). Choose one type of error to correct rather than all errors and be sure to provide examples and models.

Educate parents and keep them involved. Tell parents how to reinforce skills at home through practice and praise. Consistency across environments, paired with encouragement during the learning process, motivates the child to practice and apply skills outside of treatment.

Make learning applicable to everyday life. Choosing activities that are applicable to the child helps not only provides them with more opportunities to practice a particular skill, it helps him/her understand why he/she is learning it. This increases motivation by making a direct connection between treatment and real life. If a child does not understand why he/she is learning something, he/she will not be motivated to pursue the intended lesson.

Communicate specific treatment goals. Communicate one or two goals that the child is working toward so he/she understand what he is working toward. Create a visual representation of the child’s progress (e.g., check off short term goals leading to the end goal, make a graph to show accuracy of responses across sessions to track progress over time). It is motivating for a child to understand what she is working toward, the steps needed to get there, and to see the progress that results from practice.

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NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

praise your child the right way

Praise Your Child The Right Way

Praise is an important part of raising a child with healthy self-esteem. The right kind of praise can make the difference between having a child with self-confidence and grit and a child who depends on outside praise for his sense of self-worth. Praise your child the right way with these 5 tips.

5 Tips to Praise Your Child the Right Way:praise your child the right way

  1. Be Specific: Instead of saying, “Good job!” say, “Good job staying focused and finishing all ten math problems. I’m so proud of you.” Being specific makes praise more meaningful because it attunes your child to his or her special effort or skill and makes that specific action or effort more motivating in the future.
  2. Praise the Process: Praise hard work, perseverance, and resilience, even if the objective was not reached. Success doesn’t always come on the first try. People aren’t always born with innate talents. Praise for the process encourages continued effort in the future.
  3. Pick Praiseworthy Situations: Praise is most effective and meaningful when given at times when your child is attempting to do something out of his or her normal pattern of behavior, for example: overcome a challenge, follow through on a difficult task, or put in extra effort.
  4. Know Your Child’s Strengths/Weaknesses: To identify praiseworthy situations, you need to be attuned to your child’s abilities. Praise is most needed when your child participates in a challenging activity or when he/she is concerned about his/her performance.
  5. Don’t Overdo It: Praise is extremely important, but praising your child for everything he or she does, can make your positive words meaningless. Make sure your praise is sincere.

Read here for more on the power of positive praise.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today! 

tips to improve your child's self esteem

Tips to Enhance Your Child’s Self Esteem

Try these tips to enhance your child’s self-esteem

Self-esteem impacts the choices we make, the company we keep, and the desire to take risks. Without a positive self-image, children run the risk of experiencing negative peer relationships, social withdrawal, and reduced confidence in their capabilities.

By adding a strengths-based vocabulary and opportunities for your child to shine, you can encourage increased motivation and positive feelings of self in your child.

Adding a strengths-based vocabulary allows you to frame your dialogue in a positive, support language.

Using words like “you could” vs. “you should” promotes a sense of control and confidence in your child’s capabilities.  Challenging your child to replace words like “can’t” with “can” gives ownership over the task and enhances the desire to try new things and enter into new situations. For example, instead of saying, “I can’t do my math, it’s too hard,” it would be better to rephrase that as, “My math is hard but I can ask for help.  I can work on my other work first that is easier, and I can try my best and continue to practice getting the correct answer.” As a parent you can encourage your child to replace her negative vocabulary with the positive.

Offer positive words of praise.

Whether your child has succeed in task or not does not matter; try to identify the positives that exist including effort that was exuded, the skills that were still acquired ( i.e. new time management skills, new friends in the process), and the success of putting herself out there to try something new. Additionally, it is important to highlight what your child’s strengths are, and continue to find outlets to let them shine. If your child is more of a creative, artistic type, enroll her in extra-curriculars that allows her to tap into her strengths. It is not to say that she should NEVER try something outside of her comfort zone, though, because through this she can learn more about herself. But it is important to provide your child with balanced opportunities to excel and grow.

Speech Delays and Talkative Older Siblings

Older sibling with younger siblingA parent recently asked me what to do when her child’s older sibling constantly answers for him.  While it’s caring that the older sibling wants to help his little brother, it’s also very important for each child to have his own space to learn and develop, try new things, and make mistakes.  So how can parents help?

What to do when an older sibling compensates for a child with speech and language difficulties:

  • Talk to the older sibling alone. Instead of being reactive, be proactive by talking to your older child about his younger sibling’s needs.  Teach him that it takes time to learn how to talk, and he can help his younger sibling talk by giving him space to try on his own.
  • Use positive language. Instead of telling older siblings what they can’t do, tell them what they can do.  For example, “You can help Jonny talk by being a good listener,” or, “You can be a helpful big brother by letting other people have a turn to talk.”
  • Teach older siblings alternative ways to be a helper. Praise your older child for wanting to help his younger sibling, and then offer him other ways to help. For example, he can help his younger sibling by being a good listener, by giving him time to finish his ideas, and by saying encouraging things (such as, “good job!” or, “thanks for sharing your idea!”).
  • Emphasize “talking turns” between family members.  It’s important for all children to learn conversation rules early on, which includes learning about listening, interruptions, and waiting for a turn to talk.  This can certainly be hard for young kids.  To help, emphasize “talking-turns.”  (“It’s Jonny’s turn to talk. Next will be your turn to talk.”)  You might even use a tangible object, such as a toy microphone, ball, or teddy bear, to pass back and forth when it’s each person’s turn.
  • Play games as a family that promote turn-taking.  You might take turns with a toy by passing it back and forth, play catch with a ball, or play a board game that involves turn-taking, such as Barn Yard Bingo, Candy Land, or Zingo.
  • Encourage active listening. Teach family members what it means to be a good listener. Use concrete examples such as, “You can listen by looking at the person who is talking,” or, “When you are listening, your mouth is quiet.”
  • Set aside one-on-one time for each sibling to play with a parent alone. Language development is enhanced through modeling, practice, and play with caregivers.  To make sure your child is receiving language-rich opportunities, set aside 15-20 minutes each day to play one-on-one with your child.
  • Praise the things that are going well. When you notice positive behavior, reinforce your child right away using very specific language.  For example, “Wow! You let Jonny have a turn to talk. You are a very good big brother when you let other people have a turn to talk.”

By incorporating these strategies into your daily routine, you can help your children develop healthier communication habits.  Older siblings have a special role as a “big brother” or “big sister.”  By teaching them about their special role, you can encourage your kids to feel more positive about helping their younger siblings. For more ideas about how to incorporate siblings into your child’s speech and language development, visit the blog, Encouraging Siblings to Help With Speech & Language Practice.

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What to do when your Child Doesn’t Play with Toys Appropriately

One exciting thing about being a child is all the cool and fun toys you get to play with. However, some children struggle with playing appropriately, and can be too rough and unsafe with toys. Parents sometimes have difficulty getting their children to use toys appropriately.

To help you gain better control during playtime, and keep your child and others safe, try the following strategies with your children:

  1. Model. When your child gets a new toy, model how the toy should be used. You should provide lots of prompts and hand-over-hand assistance to teach and encourage your child to appropriately play with the new toy.Infant girl playing with toys
  2. Practice. Have your child practice appropriately playing with the toy. If your child starts to get too rough with it, show them the appropriate way to use it and then have them repeat it back to you.
  3. Praise. When your child is appropriately playing with their toys, provide them with praise and let them know they are doing a great job. For example, you can say, “Suzy, I love how nicely you are playing with your dolls!” or “Josh, you are doing a great job of racing your cars and not throwing them!”
  4. Take It Away. If your child continues to play with toys inappropriately (i.e., throwing them, hitting others with them, trying to break them), immediately take the toys away. Let your child know that this is not how one plays with the toys. Talk to your child about why it is unsafe (i.e., someone can get hurt, you can break the toy or other items that are nearby, others might not want to play with you). You can then reintroduce the toy and show your child how to appropriately play with it. Let your child know that if they do not play the right way with the toy, then they will not be able to play with it for the rest of the day.
  5. Make a Story. You can also create a story about how we should and should not play with our toys. Within the story, identify the appropriate ways to play with toys and why we should play with them that way. Your story can also illustrate inappropriate behavior with the toys, highlighting again why we do not want to use toys in that manner. Review the story with your child before they go on a play date or start playing with toys. In addition, you and your child can reread the story after they misbehave with a toy.
  6. Just Not Ready. Some children just may not be developmentally ready to play with a specific toy, despite the age limits listed by the manufacturer. If this is the case, pull the toy out every now and again and see if your child is at the right stage. The toy will be much more fun for both of you when they can use it appropriately.

To keep your child playing safely with toys, always remember to model, practice, and praise; and if you have to, do not be afraid to take the toy away until your child can appropriately play with it.

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Why “Good Job” Doesn’t Work

A seasoned consultant to North Shore Pediatric Therapy, Michael Alosso met with our staff today to help us continuously improve our communication skills. The lessons we learned help us to be what he calls “You On Your Best Day” . This powerful sense of awareness helps our therapists to be their best every day , a motivating message that we hope to pass on to all the families we work with.Boy holding a sign saying thank you

The last time Mr. Alosso presented to our company, I really resonated with one topic in particular. The topic was “TSP”. It is an easy, quick and refreshing guide to giving positive feedback to others. The idea is that phrases such as “good job” are simply not enough and can lack meaning to adults and children alike. When we tell our children “good job”, they need to know why it was a good job. Think about and describe the specifics of what they did that was good, why it was good, how it made you feel, etc. This is what motivates children to repeat that behavior and allow them that boost of confidence. The best way to give feedback that will get the best results is following TSP:

T : Truthful

S : Specific

P : Positive

How to become a TSP giver and positive praiser:

  • Look for the good in everything and everyone around you
  • Set a small, realistic and finite goal for how many TSP’s you want to give per day/week
  • Think of those around you whose entire day might change for the better

How to become a TSP receiver:

  • Don’t deny praise from others, always say “thank you”
  • Think of the joy someone is sending you and be happy to receive it
  • When someone honors you, celebrate it!

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