A child will do well, if they can do well

Working with children on a daily basis I have often heard the comment that the child is 'unmotivated, lazy or uninterested'.

I have a firm belief that if a child can do well, they will do well (Of course there are always exceptions to the rule).

This is what defines me as an OT therapist and it is the cornerstone of my therapy intervention philosophy.

This philosophy is based on a strength based model and encourages empathy for the child. This model leads to greater understanding of their frustrations and challenges that some children face. It is so important to look at the child's strengths and build from there, one step at a time. Adapt their environment to enable the child. Just because they require a different way to learn, does not mean they are any 'less' than their peers.

If a child can win a race they will try and get the gold medal. When a child has difficulties or skill deficits they begin to realise, that their skill base, influences their ability base. If it is too hard for them, they develop strategies to compensate or to escape and avoid these tasks. The consequences of not being able to to the activity is extremely hard for them to face on a daily balance. They wonder why their peer's find it so easy to do and they do not. It erodes at their self confidence and they begin to dislike that subject or task at school. The strategies that they develop would often get them into trouble from both parents and teachers at times.

Some of the strategies the child develops is to become the class clown, by doing silly things, it can detract attention away from the task which is difficult. They can 'fall off their chair', get up and walk around, chat to the friend next door to them, make silly sounds, and they become distracted by gazing out the window.

I had one little boy many years back who would start to bark like a dog, he would get on all fours and move around the room. The teacher did not understand the reason for the behaviour and the child was always 'in trouble'. He was referred to as disruptive and that he was uninterested in the work. Children can often get into trouble for these avoidance strategies as these strategies can seem 'strange' or disruptive to those who do not understand. However it is easier for the child to tolerate the class laughing at him, than their peers thinking that they can not do the task.

What if their peers/friends think they are 'stupid' as they do not understand or can not do the task? They would rather being called funny, silly or 'naughty', anything but 'stupid'. When the strategies escalate they can be sent out the class, or to the principals office but their objective was to get out of the difficult task so to them it has been worthwhile and successful. They will deal with the consequence later. When a child's input becomes too overwhelming they will produce an output. The output comes in many different forms. It can often be vocal or physical.

This can continually erode their confidence and self esteem, which further enhances the complexity of their difficulties. In time they often become anxious and school no longer becomes a pleasant place to be. Tummy aches and headaches can become the norm to avoid going to school and facing their challenges.

Trying to understand what part of the task is a challenge for your child can assist them in achieving their goals. This may need to be assessed by a professional to help unravel the reasons why the child is having difficulty. Often the child requires a different way to learn compared to their peers. An individual education plan as well as differentiated learning styles would be required to enable the child.

If your child is having difficulties in functional areas at home or school, please contact your Occupational Therapist. The key to making the child succeed is to go back to the basics. Break the task down into steps and see which step becomes the challenge for the child. Explore different ways to teach the child how to overcome their challenges. A child needs to be shown until the task becomes an automatic movement, method or response.


Email: ottherapyie@gmail.com

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