Many of our students with learning support needs have low self-esteem and self-confidence.  This, along with other issues may mean that they find it harder than usual to take risks.  For some of our students, what you think of as a risk and what they  think of as a risk can be very different.

Trying something new, like a new computer program, working with a new desk buddy, going to someone else’s house for a playdate instead of their own, asking a new or sub teacher if they can use the bathroom, trying new food… all of these can be challenges to many of our students and there are a number of things that we can do to make it less daunting.

One of the most simple and effective things that we can do is to provide generous and specific praise when we see them displaying a behaviour that we like or taking a risk that we know is difficult for them.

It is important that we find as many opportunities as possible throughout the day to be complimentary and generous with praise.  Even if attempts fail we need to praise the chance that was taken and ensure that they will feel confident to try again.

It is vital that children know what they are being praised for.  We are all guilty of giving out a generalistic “Good Job” or unspecific high fives but students need to know what it is that they have done right and what they are being praised for.  “Hey, you held the door open for me there, thank you very much for showing me such lovely manners” and “You chose to sit quietly for me while I talked to this man, that was very thoughtful.  Thank you” are examples of very specific praise.

Older students will also benefit from praise which helps them to understand why something has happened. This means taking specific praise a step further.  If a student struggles with understanding cause and effect then then they may not know that the reason they have done well in a test is because they studied hard or that the reason they are working so well in a group is because they are listening better.  To help them to foster this understanding it is important to include it in your praise.