Parents and caregivers of children with ASD often find it challenging to get their children to sit and engage in activities and tasks. Some common challenges shared by parents include: “My child refuses to come and sit to do the activity.” or “My child engages in inappropriate behaviors or self-stimulatory behaviors when the task becomes difficult.”
These challenges may be due to a lack of readiness or learning-how-to-learn skills. Learning-how-to-learn is teaching children the process of learning. Good learning-how-to-learn skills will enable them to be able to learn from any teacher, as well as in different environments. Essentially, this is a foundation skill to acquire before your child can learn other skills.
In this article, our Behavior Consultant, Ms Nurhayati Ismail, shares steps to increase your child’s learning-how-to-learn skills, specifically co-operation and desire to come and sit to do an activity as well as tips on helping your child stay motivated.
Before your child is required to learn or engage in various tasks, he or she needs to be able to come to sit with you or his or her teacher willingly!
Step 1: Letting your child know your expectation by showing him or her the reward system
First, you have to set an expectation or establish a contingency. An expectation means that your child needs to know that they will get a reward by coming to sit and do the activity and task, making it a positive experience.
Initially, we have to make the task very easy, which can be something your child already knows and can do very easily. By getting your child to complete a task successfully, you will teach him or her how to earn the reward.
Step 2: Notice your child’s increased motivation
As your child experiences the rewards, you should notice an increased willingness to come to sit down and engage in the task provided.
Step 3: Reward your child for his or her attempt at trying (trying behavior)
When you choose to reward your child’s attempt at trying (trying behavior) instead of only correct behavior, your child will develop more willingness to attend and try, even when the task may be difficult for him or her.
One common mistake is rewarding only correct behaviors or upon completion of the task. You should always reward your child for his or her attempt at trying (trying behavior).
Trying means your child is attending and putting in his best effort to execute the task
Tips to help your child stay motivated and willing to learn as they progress to more complex tasks:
Tip #1: Ensure that all tasks taught are broken down into smaller parts and taught one at a time.
In situations where your child typically listens to you quite well but becomes disruptively or starts behaving inappropriately when given a new task, it could indicate that he or she finds it too difficult.
You may need to break it down into smaller parts or give him more assistance or make sure that the prompts that you give him are helping him.
Tip #2: Another way to help your child stay motivated is to teach them how to cope with the situation.
An excellent way to do this is to teach them to communicate their difficulties.
By teaching them replacement language such as “I don’t know”, “It’s too difficult”, or “help me” to communicate their difficulties will minimize chances of them resorting to disruptive behaviors.
This language serves as a replacement behavior instead of engaging in self-stimulatory or disruptive behaviors.
Eventually, your child will need to learn how to deal with challenges by developing more perseverance when things are difficult. You can achieve this by posing different challenges and encouraging your child to keep trying and not giving up.
As mentioned in Step 3, we should focus on your child’s attempt at trying (trying behaviour) and not the end product or correctness. By doing so, it would make your child more resilient. Intermittent success at their trying attempts would also encourage your child to try and not give up. Resilence is one aspect of a multitude of learning-how-to-learn skills.
When you focus on learning-how-to-learn skills, you will better equip your child at learning more independently. They will also enjoy the learning process.