How to Be Patient With a Child With Special Needs

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Explain the instructions for an activity or a task slowly and clearly. Special needs children can have difficulty following instructions and remaining on task. You can help the child focus on a task by sitting down with them and laying out the instructions for an activity or a task slowly and clearly. Maintain eye contact when you do this and make clear facial expressions. Do not talk too fast or too loudly at the child.[1]

Some special needs children have difficulty reading facial expressions as well as verbal or physical cues. You may want to try drawing out the instructions for an activity or a task to show the child how the activity will be done. You can do this using very basic drawings, such as stick figures, or a more comic strip style drawing, with more detailed figures. The child can then look at the drawing and better understand how to do an activity or a task.[2]

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Learn how the child prefers to communicate with you. It can also be helpful to observe how the child communicates with those around her and with you. Some children with special needs have difficulty verbalizing their discomfort or their needs. They may use physical cues instead, such as touching your arm or waving their hands at you. Some children may prefer making facial gestures at you to show that they need something or are trying to figure out how to do a certain action.[3]

If you are taking care of a child with special needs temporarily, you should discuss the child’s preferred

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Use auditory, visual, and tactile cues. If you are not sure how the child prefers to communicate, you may try auditory, visual, and tactile cues. You may try repeating certain words or phrases to help calm the child down if she is acting up. Singing these phrases in a low voice, for example, singing “be quiet please”, can help to soothe the child. You can also try clapping, whistling, and humming as a way to quiet down the child.[5][6]

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Work with the child’s special needs, not against it. You may be struggling to control your child’s behavior, especially in public where others may judge you or the child, and be frustrated that you cannot get your child under control due to her special needs. But rather than fight against the child’s special needs, you should try to find ways to accommodate the child’s special needs. This will allow you to view the child’s special needs as a challenge, rather than an obstacle or a problem to be fixed.[7]

For example, rather than get upset that your child with Down’s syndrome has trouble speaking and communicating her needs with you verbally, you may try to find other ways to help her communicate. You may take photographs of the step by step process of how to get dressed in the morning and show her the photographs so she understands what to do. You may also repeat phrases consistently in front of her so she hears and remembers these phrases. For example, you may try to say “Good morning” to her every morning so she understands this is a typical greeting for that time of day.

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Celebrate the child’s achievements, even if they are small. Focus on the positive aspects of your child’s special needs by recognizing her achievements, even if they seem small and insignificant. This could be the moment she speaks her first complete sentence or the moment she understands what someone is asking her to do in a new or challenging environment. Show your child that you appreciate her achievements through facial gestures and positive language.[8]