Motivating Children with Autism to Learn | How do we develop motivation to learn for children with autism? | 1:1 ABA Therapy Program — Autism Partnership Singapore

Learning-How-To-Learn Skills:
How do we develop motivation to learn for
children with autism?

Motivation can be defined as someone who is eager to accomplish a goal, as demonstrated by their desire, determination, and persistence. However, children with ASD often show little interest in learning the things we hope to teach them because of the lack of motivation to accomplish their goals.

This may be due to a variety of reasons, and the reasons differ from child to child. Understanding and getting to know each child as an individual is crucial in finding out what the reason(s) for a lack of motivation may be.

Unfortunately, giving in to the child is not a long-term solution and only serves to reinforce the challenging behavior, making it more difficult to change in the future.

Identifying the reason behind the behavior is the first step to effectively tackling the challenging behavior. Only when we accurately pinpoint the reason, will we be able to teach appropriate replacement skills and reduce challenging behavior.

There are two common reasons for lack of or poor desire to learn 1) Limited skills and understanding, and 2) Negative learning experiences.  

It is important to note that a child can also experience both of those challenges and experiences. In this article, we will have a closer look at a child with limited skills and understanding.

First, we look at a child with little skills and understanding. We often make the mistake of ‘charging’ into teaching without taking a step back to understand and think about a child’s perspective and/or feelings about learning. In other words, we should take the time to imagine and understand what learning must be like for a child with little skills and understanding. 

Considering his challenges, this child will have difficulties learning, which may affect his confidence. Having a lack of confidence will cause him to hesitate to try, to be willing to persist, and be receptive to learning and all this culminates in his lack of desire/motivation to learn. Understanding this will help us prioritize building the child’s confidence as our main goal.

How do we motivate children with Autism with
Limited Skills and Understanding to Learn?

We should begin by getting to know the child better – what are the child’s challenges (e.g. acquiring language, fear of failure), what are his strengths/weaknesses, and how he or she learns best. Having this information provides us with the framework for us to use when we start teaching the child. The process of getting to know a child will not be achieved in a single observation.  We must continue to observe and discover and know more about him and use the information we receive to his advantage in the way we teach the child.

Step 2: Determine factors contributing to the main objective

In addition to knowing the child, we should also consider the factors we need to consider when teaching him, with our main objective being to develop confidence. Here are examples of some factors to consider:

  • Know what motivates the child 
  • Make things clear to the child, check that the child understands what we are saying and/or want him to do 
  • Keep learning duration short so that the child does not find it too draggy 
  • Provide opportunities to practice the skills in a meaningful way to the child 
  • Be encouraging and ensure the child is successful by providing meaningful and easier learning opportunities building up the challenges in stages.

Incorporating these will ensure the child will enjoy the learning journey and be more successful and hence increase his confidence. The above are areas we need to consider and provide for the child when we teach.

With all the above information, we can now suggest ideas for activities and ways in which we can provide learning opportunities.
Here are some suggestions:

Developing a child’s reinforcement to motivation to learn

By observing what a child likes, we can learn what motivates him or her. A child who enjoys movement can be taught to scoot, ride a bike, etc. based on this observation. Since the child will receive reinforcement of movement when scooting or riding a bike, he or she will likely be motivated to learn to scoot and ride a bike. 

Motivation to learn the skill will make the learning journey meaningful and when the child learns to scoot or bike he will learn new skills and with each new skill, he learns he becomes more confident.

Provide activities that have routine

For example: Getting ready to go out (put shoes on, carry his bag, etc.) The routine is predictable and doing it daily will allow the child to practice the steps in a meaningful way and easier for him to remember the steps and carry them out independently.

Learn a language through meaningful experiences/activities

For example: If we want the child to learn  toothbrush, we can provide daily experiences of getting the child to retrieve the toothbrush when he brushes his teeth. 

Another example is, if the child likes water we can provide water play opportunities for the child and teach the child ‘water’ both receptively and expressively through those activities. Through frequent exposures, the child has the opportunity to hear the label being highlighted and once we have provided sufficient exposure we can then assess his acquisition of the label in a different setup like leaving the items on a table and asking the child to retrieve the item. 

Provide meaningful activities that will develop the child’s fine and gross motor skills

For example, opening and closing things, carrying things with both hands, learning to cut, etc. These activities will teach the child skills that he will need to learn in order to become more independent in his own life. 

Even though some children may find it difficult to acquire these skills because of the nature of the practice, these activities are straightforward. They are not as complicated as some other things, which makes their learning more enjoyable and easier. With these new skills come independence and with independence increase confidence, as the child can and know how to do things for himself. 

While the list I have provided is by no means exhaustive, it should give you some ideas on how to approach the situation. In the next part of this article, I will cover how to increase motivation to learn for a child who has had a negative learning experience. 

With all the above information, we can now suggest ideas for activities and ways in which we can provide learning opportunities. Here are some suggestions:

Developing a child’s reinforcement to motivation to learn
By observing what a child likes, we can learn what motivates him or her. A child who enjoys movement can be taught to scoot, ride a bike, etc. based on this observation. Since the child will receive reinforcement of movement when scooting or riding a bike, he or she will likely be motivated to learn to scoot and ride a bike. 

Motivation to learn the skill will make the learning journey meaningful and when the child learns to scoot or bike he will learn new skills and with each new skill, he learns he becomes more confident.

Provide activities that have routine
For example: Getting ready to go out (put shoes on, carry his bag, etc.) The routine is predictable and doing it daily will allow the child to practice the steps in a meaningful way and easier for him to remember the steps and carry them out independently.

Learn a language through meaningful experiences/activities 

For example: If we want the child to learn  toothbrush, we can provide daily experiences of getting the child to retrieve the toothbrush when he brushes his teeth. 

Another example is, if the child likes water we can provide water play opportunities for the child and teach the child ‘water’ both receptively and expressively through those activities. Through frequent exposures, the child has the opportunity to hear the label being highlighted and once we have provided sufficient exposure we can then assess his acquisition of the label in a different setup like leaving the items on a table and asking the child to retrieve the item.

Provide meaningful activities that will develop the child’s fine and gross motor skills

For example, opening and closing things, carrying things with both hands, learning to cut, etc. These activities will teach the child skills that he will need to learn in order to become more independent in his own life. 

Even though some children may find it difficult to acquire these skills because of the nature of the practice, these activities are straightforward. They are not as complicated as some other things, which makes their learning more enjoyable and easier. With these new skills come independence and with independence increase confidence, as the child can and know how to do things for himself. 

While the list I have provided is by no means exhaustive, it should give you some ideas on how to approach the situation. In the next part of this article, I will cover how to increase motivation to learn for a child who has had a negative learning experience.

With all the above information, we can now suggest ideas for activities and ways in which we can provide learning opportunities. Here are some suggestions:

Developing a child’s reinforcement to motivation to learn
By observing what a child likes, we can learn what motivates him or her. A child who enjoys movement can be taught to scoot, ride a bike, etc. based on this observation. Since the child will receive reinforcement of movement when scooting or riding a bike, he or she will likely be motivated to learn to scoot and ride a bike. 

Motivation to learn the skill will make the learning journey meaningful and when the child learns to scoot or bike he will learn new skills and with each new skill, he learns he becomes more confident.

Provide activities that have routine
For example: Getting ready to go out (put shoes on, carry his bag, etc.) The routine is predictable and doing it daily will allow the child to practice the steps in a meaningful way and easier for him to remember the steps and carry them out independently.

Learn a language through meaningful experiences/activities 

For example: If we want the child to learn  toothbrush, we can provide daily experiences of getting the child to retrieve the toothbrush when he brushes his teeth. 

Another example is, if the child likes water we can provide water play opportunities for the child and teach the child ‘water’ both receptively and expressively through those activities. Through frequent exposures, the child has the opportunity to hear the label being highlighted and once we have provided sufficient exposure we can then assess his acquisition of the label in a different setup like leaving the items on a table and asking the child to retrieve the item.

Provide meaningful activities that will develop the child’s fine and gross motor skills

For example, opening and closing things, carrying things with both hands, learning to cut, etc. These activities will teach the child skills that he will need to learn in order to become more independent in his own life. 

Even though some children may find it difficult to acquire these skills because of the nature of the practice, these activities are straightforward. They are not as complicated as some other things, which makes their learning more enjoyable and easier. With these new skills come independence and with independence increase confidence, as the child can and know how to do things for himself. 

While the list I have provided is by no means exhaustive, it should give you some ideas on how to approach the situation. In the next part of this article, I will cover how to increase motivation to learn for a child who has had a negative learning experience.

With all the above information, we can now suggest ideas for activities and ways in which we can provide learning opportunities. Here are some suggestions:

Developing a child’s reinforcement to motivation to learn
By observing what a child likes, we can learn what motivates him or her. A child who enjoys movement can be taught to scoot, ride a bike, etc. based on this observation. Since the child will receive reinforcement of movement when scooting or riding a bike, he or she will likely be motivated to learn to scoot and ride a bike. 

Motivation to learn the skill will make the learning journey meaningful and when the child learns to scoot or bike he will learn new skills and with each new skill, he learns he becomes more confident.

Provide activities that have routine
For example: Getting ready to go out (put shoes on, carry his bag, etc.) The routine is predictable and doing it daily will allow the child to practice the steps in a meaningful way and easier for him to remember the steps and carry them out independently.

Learn a language through meaningful experiences/activities 

For example: If we want the child to learn  toothbrush, we can provide daily experiences of getting the child to retrieve the toothbrush when he brushes his teeth. 

Another example is, if the child likes water we can provide water play opportunities for the child and teach the child ‘water’ both receptively and expressively through those activities. Through frequent exposures, the child has the opportunity to hear the label being highlighted and once we have provided sufficient exposure we can then assess his acquisition of the label in a different setup like leaving the items on a table and asking the child to retrieve the item.

Provide meaningful activities that will develop the child’s fine and gross motor skills

For example, opening and closing things, carrying things with both hands, learning to cut, etc. These activities will teach the child skills that he will need to learn in order to become more independent in his own life. 

Even though some children may find it difficult to acquire these skills because of the nature of the practice, these activities are straightforward. They are not as complicated as some other things, which makes their learning more enjoyable and easier. With these new skills come independence and with independence increase confidence, as the child can and know how to do things for himself. 

While the list I have provided is by no means exhaustive, it should give you some ideas on how to approach the situation. In the next part of this article, I will cover how to increase motivation to learn for a child who has had a negative learning experience.

With all the above information, we can now suggest ideas for activities and ways in which we can provide learning opportunities. Here are some suggestions:

Developing a child’s reinforcement to motivation to learn
By observing what a child likes, we can learn what motivates him or her. A child who enjoys movement can be taught to scoot, ride a bike, etc. based on this observation. Since the child will receive reinforcement of movement when scooting or riding a bike, he or she will likely be motivated to learn to scoot and ride a bike. 

Motivation to learn the skill will make the learning journey meaningful and when the child learns to scoot or bike he will learn new skills and with each new skill, he learns he becomes more confident.

Provide activities that have routine
For example: Getting ready to go out (put shoes on, carry his bag, etc.) The routine is predictable and doing it daily will allow the child to practice the steps in a meaningful way and easier for him to remember the steps and carry them out independently.

Learn a language through meaningful experiences/activities 

For example: If we want the child to learn  toothbrush, we can provide daily experiences of getting the child to retrieve the toothbrush when he brushes his teeth. 

Another example is, if the child likes water we can provide water play opportunities for the child and teach the child ‘water’ both receptively and expressively through those activities. Through frequent exposures, the child has the opportunity to hear the label being highlighted and once we have provided sufficient exposure we can then assess his acquisition of the label in a different setup like leaving the items on a table and asking the child to retrieve the item.

Provide meaningful activities that will develop the child’s fine and gross motor skills

For example, opening and closing things, carrying things with both hands, learning to cut, etc. These activities will teach the child skills that he will need to learn in order to become more independent in his own life. 

Even though some children may find it difficult to acquire these skills because of the nature of the practice, these activities are straightforward. They are not as complicated as some other things, which makes their learning more enjoyable and easier. With these new skills come independence and with independence increase confidence, as the child can and know how to do things for himself. 

While the list I have provided is by no means exhaustive, it should give you some ideas on how to approach the situation. In the next part of this article, I will cover how to increase motivation to learn for a child who has had a negative learning experience.