By: Dr. Cat Baker, PhD, BCBA-D
Does your child learn differently? If you’re a teacher, do you ever have difficulty getting concepts to click for your students? Do you feel like your child just doesn’t “fit” in the typical school box? Are you unsure of how to address their unique learning needs? This can be a tough and frustrating experience for parents and for teachers. Typical academic tutoring may not be enough if a child has learning difficulties. They may need someone who understands how to present information in a way that is unique to their learning style. By implementing the 8 strategies below in tailored lessons, every child can gain confidence and meet their academic goals.
1. Assess the child’s learning needs and develop an individualized plan
Establish a plan and specific academic goals through discussing the child’s learning needs with all parties including parents, teachers, therapists, tutors, etc. Use specific assessment tools to evaluate what instructional needs are present. Using objective assessments allows you to track progress over time in a concrete way.
2. Tailor lessons to the child’s learning style
Each child’s strengths will be found through questions and observation. Do they prefer to hear the material, or do they learn by doing an activity? Their lessons should be structured to their style. This will help the child retain the subject matter in a more efficient way.
3. Help motivate by always being firm, consistent, and giving lots of praise
Always give guidance and assurance. Children who are already struggling academically may need more positive reinforcement than you would expect. They are having to face their shortcomings, and that isn’t always a fun experience. Positive reinforcement helps the child gain confidence in their abilities and fosters a desire to keep learning!
4. Work in small intervals to maintain focus
Work for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. If a child is really struggling, you may need to build up to this duration. Between each interval, give the child brain breaks as needed. This provides the needed rest that the brain requires to consolidate what they are learning. Brain breaks with movement, such as jumping jacks, running in place, or stretching, can help get the blood flowing and bring oxygen to the brain so it can operate at its best. Brain breaks are also a great tool to relieve stress and anxiety! This strategy allows the child to take their attention off of the lesson for a short time.
5. Provide hands-on activities and movement to keep lessons more interesting and fun
If children are incorporating hands-on activities in addition to written or spoken information, they will retain it better. Additionally, practicing skills through related activities leads to quicker mastery of the skill. Doing this repeatedly ensures that a child will retain the skills they learned over a long period of time. Bringing movement into the lesson doesn’t just incorporate the part of the brain that is needed for learning a new skill, but also the part of the brain that controls movement. This combination leads to more of the brain being involved in the learning process. These activities and movements will help keep the child engaged in their learning!
6. Use reward systems and incentives
This is especially important for children who have been struggling. As we stated above, when children struggle, trying to improve their weak areas can be stressful. It is important to “override” this stress with plenty of positive reinforcement. Reinforce their attempts as well as their success. Don’t only focus on the perfect answers. If you wait for perfection, they will get frustrated with trying and give up. When they do show understanding, praise and reward their accomplishment of making it all the way to mastery! When a child feels successful, it helps give them a sense of pride and builds their self-confidence.
7. Identify each child’s interests and incorporate them into their lessons
This will help children stay motivated and lead to learning becoming more enjoyable for them. Incorporating their specific interests also shows that you care about them and are willing to acknowledge their passions. Over time, they will naturally begin to enjoy the process of learning more because it has been associated with their own intrinsic interests.
8. Last, but certainly not least, BE PATIENT
Recognize a child’s frustration and help them to work past it. Give them time to problem solve and work through these difficult lessons. Remember, they are little. As adults, we forget how long it took us to learn what now seems easy for us! Recognize when they need a break or to switch tactics. Patience allows a child to learn at their own pace and recognize that learning takes time and effort while not getting defeated.
In this article, we linked to our “Brain Breaks for Parenting Self-Care” blog. Keep in mind that those tips can be easily adapted for your little ones at home or in the classroom! We also highly recommend checking out our blogs “7 Strategies for Teaching Resilience” and “4 Tips to Help your Child Stay Organized.”
If you are in the Jacksonville area and would like to enroll your child in our Upcoming Bootcamps covering Anxiety/Stress Management, Play Skills, or Bullying, follow this link to sign up. We hope to see you there!