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7 Techniques for Building Self-Esteem and Confidence

By: Rick Lavoie

Parents and professionals working with children with special needs must develop a repertoire of specialized techniques to monitor and modify the child's behavior.

The following techniques are designed to improve children's behavior by providing the structure, predictability, and support they require. However, remain mindful that these techniques will be effective only if utilized within the philosophical context outlined here.

Each strategy is accompanied by a code which indicates whether the method is for Home (H) or School (S) use. The majority of them can be modified to be used in either setting.

By providing special needs children with an environment in which they feel confident and comfortable, you create a place where good behavior and cooperation are more likely to occur.

  1. Showing a sincere interest in a child (e.g., listening intently when he speaks) is often more effective and meaningful than praise. (H/S)
  2. Decision-making is a very difficult process for children with learning disabilities due to their lack of self-esteem. Provide them with ample opportunities to make simple decisions in order to improve this skill (e.g., "You may use lined paper or unlined paper for this assignment, Sherry."). Give them reasons for the decisions that you have made and encourage them to do the same. (H/S)
  3. Shuffle a deck of playing cards and let the child select a suit. Each time he completes an academic task successfully, allow him to turn a card face up. If the card turned face up is a member of the chosen suit, let the child get a drink of water from the fountain, visit the game corner for one minute, or make some other specific quiet movement about the room. If the child gets out of his seat without permission, require him to forfeit his next card turn. (S)
  4. In order to allow the child with LD to participate more often (and more effectively) in classroom discussions, try this technique:
    Rachel, a child with LD, is reluctant to participate in social studies class discussions and seldom volunteers answers. The teacher deals with this by:
    • Asking several "multiple answer" questions daily, and
    • Calling on Rachel for the first response to these questions.
    Example: Teacher: Everyone try to think of five causes of the American Civil War. (Pause) Rachel, can you give me one? (S)
  5. When a child resists new tasks, assign some very small portion of the new task (e.g., one simple subtraction problem) that must be completed before the child goes on to an old, familiar task (e.g., several addition problems). Gradually increase the ratio between new tasks and familiar tasks. (S)
  6. Many children with learning disabilities are reluctant to participate in group activities. If a child responds well in the presence of one other pupil, plan activities in which he has ample opportunity to do so. Then add a second peer to the group, later a third, and so on, until the group approximates the entire class. (H/S)
  7. Sometimes it is useful to have the child begin a difficult task (e.g., grammar worksheet) at the teacher's desk. Once he has gotten started successfully, send him back to his own desk to complete the task. (H/S)

Rick Lavoie (2018)