Melissa Schlemmer is a mom of two (soon to be three) who has completed multiple intensives at NAPA and participated in hundreds of hours of therapy with her son Christopher. Trust us, she has got the motivational mommy thing down pat.
Whether your child is doing an intensive therapy session or just weekly appointments, we all
know that sometimes they need an extra boost of motivation! Below are a few ideas that are mom tested and kid approved your child some extra enthusiasm during those hard-working sessions!
Your child can add a piece to a puzzle or take a turn at a game in between exercises. Not only does this add a little more fun to therapy, it can also be used as a way for them to take their mind off of what they are really doing. Books are a huge motivator for our son and he knew that at the end of each exercise he was able to turn a page or two before he started working again.
Whether it’s playing their favorite music on an iPad or just singing 10 Little Monkey’s, music is key! Much like how adults use music at the gym, you can use songs as a way to help your child understand expectations. For example, let your child know they need to perform the expected exercise throughout one entire song, or tell them they’ll be finished with the exercise when you are done singing.
Bring your child’s favorite snack and use it to your advantage. Increase incentive even more by only allowing a certain snack during therapy sessions. If M&M’s are a snack that are coveted but not often given, they may be even more motivating during a therapy session.
Some children may be more motivated if they know just how long they are expected to work. Whether you break it down by exercise or the entire hour, timers on the iPad or phone may be helpful so the child does see an end in sight.
This was an app on the iPad that worked very well for my nonverbal son. When he was refusing to stand, I added a picture of him standing in the “first” section and then a photo of a book in the “then” section. This visual helped him understand that if he stood first, he would receive a reward of a book at the end of his session. You can also verbalize this to your child, but for us the visual really helped.
These may help a child understand what exactly is going to happen during their therapy session. In the social story you can add who is involved, what is going to happen, and make clear expectations. Some children are more motivated when things are not sprung on them or they are surprised by what’s next.
What child isn’t excited when they know they’ll be getting a surprise at the end of a session? Small dollar store trinkets or treats are an easy way to keep your child motivated while not spending an arm and a leg. You can pick out their favorite things yourself or involve them and let them know that these items are only rewards for doing a great job at therapy. You can keep your treasure box in the car so that they can pick out their treat on the car ride home. Now, we also know that there will be days when no matter what parents or therapists pull out of their bag of tricks your kiddo isn’t buying it. What works for one child may be a disaster for another. Hopefully this list helped you find a few new ways to motivate your child during their therapy session. Our son may not always understand our motivation for his therapy sessions, but if he’s having fun, reading a book, or knows there’s a reward at the end, he may just be more inclined to work a little harder.