How to Motivate a Special Needs Child to Learn Essential Life Skills

How to Motivate a Special Needs Child to Learn Essential Life Skills

learning life skills at home

For special needs children, learning daily living skills such as self-care, personal hygiene, laundry, cooking, and cleaning is fundamental to developing a greater level of independence in adulthood. 

These skills will help prepare them for future adult situations in the home, community, and workplace. But, because they take more time and effort for a special needs child to learn, the child may get easily frustrated and want to give up. As with anything, motivation is the key to success, but how to motivate a special needs child to learn these essential life skills?

Get Comfortable

When teaching daily life skills, it helps to dissect each skill into smaller tasks. Each daily life skill may include a long list of several discrete steps to perform. Allow your child time and space to get comfortable with each tiny step. You may be tempted to rush your child through the steps, but letting the child go at their own pace will help develop the comfort level and confidence to go on to the next step.

Social Stories

Social stories can help motivate a special needs child by personalizing and giving context to the steps of a daily living skill. Rather than simply listing all the steps, a social story uses pictures and words to create a personal story around the step-by-step sequence. Reading the social story can help the child internalize the steps, developing comfort and confidence with each step.

Praise and Reward Effort

After each correctly performed step, praise the child lavishly. Specific, descriptive praise is best. Then prompt the child for the next step. Prompts can be physical or verbal cues to jog the child’s memory of the next step. Prompting is not a sign of failure. It is part of the learning process. If the child successfully performs the step after prompting, that is also praiseworthy effort. Just as importantly, avoid using any negative comments as the child practices the steps.

Fostering Confidence

Learning and practicing daily living skills can help special needs kids gain confidence and feel a greater sense of control. Your patient praise and gentle motivation can help guide them toward learning as many daily living skills as possible.

LeRoi Jones principal harbor school

Harbor School a private special education school in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Our mission at Harbor School is to help all of our special needs students with learning, social, language, behavioral, and other disabilities. Our highly skilled staff are committed daily to helping each student reach their full potential.

We would be more than happy to discuss your child's specific needs and challenges, so please call us at 732.544.9394, or request a tour at Harbor School in Eatontown, NJ. We are located just minutes off of the Garden State Parkway at exit 105 and conveniently located off of Route 35 and Route 36 in Monmouth County, NJ.

LeRoi R. Jones
Principal-Harbor School, Eatontown, NJ