Unfamiliar things come into everyone’s life on a daily basis. For most of us, these unfamiliar things do not cause too much confusion. However, for the special needs child, anything that is unfamiliar has the potential to become a huge challenge for them. Some will get frustrated trying. Some will look at it from every angle and try to figure it out. And some will just curl up and not even attempt to figure out what they need to do. There are several steps that you can take to help a special needs kid through the unfamiliar circumstances that they encounter.
1. Start with the familiar.
In every situation, there is some kind of familiar factor. Start with that. Help them to see a color they know, a favorite shape, or a familiar person. They may need help becoming comfortable with the familiar in an unfamiliar setting, but it will become their rock. Be sure to point out the familiar in every unfamiliar situation to help them gain initial confidence!
2. Look for the easiest adjustment.
When helping a special needs child learn unfamiliar things, it is important that you break down the situation and start with the simplest step or component. Starting with the simplest component will go a long way in helping them gain confidence and familiarity with the unfamiliar task or concept they are being asked to tackle.
3. Watch for nonverbal and verbal clues.
It is so important to watch for clues when a special needs child is being asked to do something that is unfamiliar to them. As you are helping them, they are going to be constantly giving you indications that will let you see how they are adapting. Be sure to pay attention and adjust the situation as needed. If the child feels that their mode of communication is not being understood, they will get frustrated and will not be willing to move on and learn the unfamiliar that is trying to be taught.
4. Be consistent.
Who doesn’t like consistency? This one factor is very important to a special needs child. As you are introducing them to an unfamiliar item or concept, be sure to be consistent with how you introduce it. Special needs children thrive on consistency, and if you try to introduce the unfamiliar in a totally different way from how you normally introduce changes, this will make the process so much harder for you and the child. Be consistent! It’s so important!
5. Give praise.
Special needs children also thrive on praise. It gives them a reassurance that everything is okay, and it motivates them to move on and keep trying things. When they face an unfamiliar situation, they need that reassurance even more. It will take baby steps all along the way when it comes to introducing anything that is unfamiliar to them, but the praise that comes with every baby step will motivate them even more to achieve the ultimate goal!
At Be the Best Sport, our goal is to work in these ways to help your special needs child become comfortable with the unfamiliar things that they encounter in the sports arena. Each child will have their unique way of learning unfamiliar things, but with these steps, we are confident that we can help them learn each unfamiliar concept in a fun and effective way!