Heap on the Praises
Encouragement! Be sure to give frequent praise and lots of high fives or their equivalents.
I googled for some praises to offer and found articles about the danger of over praising kids. But I think that applies to life in general. We are dealing with intense 30 minute therapy sessions in which we are expecting a child to learn a task that is difficult for them. We are asking them to modify a behavior that has been established for some time. In learning something that is difficult, we need all the encouragement we can get. So, it is important to praise the child's efforts to keep them motivated to keep trying.
What do you do when the child is not being particularly successful? (Those kids who just struggle to produce the /r/ sound...). Give "constructive feedback" along with praising what they did correctly. "You did a great job of not rounding your lips. Let's do it again and this time pull your tongue up tighter." Or, "I can tell you are giving it 100%." And, "You almost got that one, try it again". Correct the child's errors in a positive way. Too much negativity will shut a child down quickly. (Just think of the last session you had when you were in a bad mood or did not feel well. It seems when I feel terrible the children behave terribly. They pick up on our moods.) This does not mean you praise a child falsely, because they can see through that. Even if the child is struggling with the objectives you can praise their efforts.
You can also praise the child for other things they are doing well during the session. Sometimes when they just can't "get it" you still need to help them feel positive. Here you can comment on how they are being persistent, hanging in there, etc. You can also instill postive self esteem about other skills they have: "You did a great job coloring that page." Or, you are so good at this game. You always figure it out before I do." Or, "I like the way you waited for me to give you the cards today." (or whatever behavioral issue they've been dealing with).
In my googles I found an interesting article about how to deliver praises. It said it is better to praise efforts than attributes. Instead of "you are so smart", say "You are doing a great job figuring out how to do this." Studies have show that children work harder when effort is praised. If you are praising attributes they may scale back on accepting new challenges in order to protect the status of the attribute. See article.
Some ideas for encouraging:
- For doing well on targets: Good job, That's it!, Super, Perfect, Terrific, Awesome Dude, Fantastic, Way to go...
- For trying: Good try, That was better, I like the way you are working so hard, You almost had it, That was so much better!
- For good behavior or other skills (especially when they are really struggling with tasks, find other positive things to praise): You colored that so neatly, your color choices are so creative, Are you an artist?, How did you learn to do that?, You are better at this game than I am...
- Physical praises: Cheer, Clap, Use those fun hand clappers you can find at a party store, High Fives, Surprised / Excited Face, Big big smiles
- Use animated voice with lots of excitement. If you are excited and engaged, they will be also.
- Use humor whenever you can... kids love it!