May 23, 2015

Ideally, it would be great if we did things, even challenging things, because we were all motivated intrinsically, or internally. Research shows that when external rewards are involved, intrinsic motivation decreases and when verbal feedback is used intrinsic motivation increases (Click here for full research article).

As most parents will admit, it can be a challenge to find ways to help school age children be motivated by academics without resorting to the use of external rewards. Parents, who have children with special needs, may find it particularly difficult to find ways to help their children learn to become intrinsically motivated when it comes to academic activities.

We are always reminded of the idea that if children are not learning the way we are teaching them, then we need to teach them how to learn because in fact, all children can learn! By using a variety of RDI® strategies, it is possible to help students with various ability levels feel more competent and connected to academic tasks.

Here are a few ideas that can help students feel more connected and want to participate in academic tasks more readily:

1. Discover your child’s passion or interests. Tap into these for academic activities.
2. Create a trusting environment.
3. Give choices whenever possible. One idea would be to let your child choose the order in which to complete academic activities.
4. Add energy to your activities. Try to be enthusiastic and give your child opportunities for movement if possible.
5. Slow down to give your child time to process the information and engage with you.
6. Demonstrate, show, describe and engage with a purpose. This will allow your child to understand the why behind the work.
7. Use games, music and art activities to achieve academic goals or to make academic activities more fun and interesting.
8. Allow the student time to reflect and so they can remember their successes. Model this when needed by highlighting their success for them at first.
9. Share your child’s successes with others!

By using some of these strategies, students can begin to develop intrinsic motivation and display less of a need for external rewards during academic activities. As teachers and parents, when these strategies are used we will begin to see children who feel more confident and competent. Increased competency will lead to fewer negative behaviors and anxiety and a desire to learn, achieve, and develop in academic learning.

If you feel like your child would benefit from academic support or educational consultation, please feel free to contact our office. We offer support to children with a variety of developmental disorders.