Friday, January 17, 2020

How to Motivate, Encourage, & Support the Hyperlexic Child When Things Get Hard

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Catch my session on hyperlexia at Educate & Rejuvenate 2024

Tips for how to motivate kids with hyperlexia and encourage them to do hard things. Plus, things to consider when it comes to motivation and hyperlexia.

I recently shared some of my favorite books on the topic of raising resilient and confident kids because I want both of my children to feel like they can tackle any challenge that gets thrown their way, even if it's hard.

But, oftentimes, the suggestions found in parenting books don't always work great for hyperlexic kids, as they're usually written with neurotypical children in mind.

So I put together this list of tips and ideas for how to motivate kids with hyperlexia so that you can build that resilience and that confidence. Below, you'll find lots of suggestions on how to effectively motivate, encourage, and support your kids, even when things get hard.

Tips for motivating hyperlexic kids

Motivation & the Hyperlexic Child: Important Things to Consider

There are a few things to consider when it comes to motivating the hyperlexic child.

1. Incentives, Rewards, & Punishments aren't Effective Motivators for Hyperlexic Children

Incentives and rewards don't seem to be effective as they are with a neurotypical kid. As noted in Hyperlexia: Therapy That Works, punishment does not work with hyperlexic kids. Punishment can cause anxiety, for one thing.

Furthermore, the reasons why incentives, rewards, and punishment don't seem to work well is that the hyperlexic child doesn't always naturally make the connections between things and they struggle with organizational sequences like first-then or cause and effect. So they might not be able to make that connection between receiving a certain incentive because they did behavior X.

Therefore, rewards and incentives will only be successful when the hyperlexic child has a firm grasp on understanding cause and effect. It's why the Canadian Hyperlexia Association's hyperlexia strategies pamphlet suggests "specifically teaching cause and effect inferencing and prediction."

2. Determine Why Your Child is Unmotivated by a Task

Another thing to consider is why your child might be feeling unmotivated about a particular task in the first place.

  • Is the task too easy?
  • Is the task boring?
  • Is the task too challenging?
  • Is the task causing anxiety?
  • Is the task overwhelming or have a lot of steps?
You need to work together with your child to problem-solve and determine why they might be avoiding a particular task or finding it difficult to complete.

When you can get to the root of the issue, it's much easier to come up with a game plan.

3. The Order of Activities & Tasks Makes a Difference

Finally, you need to consider the placement or order of the tasks or activities for a hyperlexic child. As suggested in Hyperlexia: Therapy That Works, "place high-interest activities either between or following activities you want the child to do."

How to Motivate, Encourage, & Support the Hyperlexic Child

So how do you motivate and encourage a hyperlexic child to do things that are hard or boring or uninteresting to them? You know, things like homework, life skills like getting dressed, and whatnot.

Well, first, you start with what they love.

"Take advantage of the child's interests or obsessions by using them as the basis for teaching activities and as motivators." - Hyperlexia: Therapy That Works

Which leads me to my list of 20+ ways to motivate a hyperlexic child...

1. Use their special interests, obsessions, and passions as motivators

2. Turn the tasks into a game or a fun challenge (e.g., can you get into your pajamas in 30 seconds or less?)

3. Use checklists and have your child cross off the items as they complete them (crossing things off of a to do list is so satisifying!)

4. Pair something fun with something boring (e.g., watching a short YouTube clip while brushing teeth)

5. Use timers to set limits for the tasks that are unmotivating to your child (my kids love timers, especially if the timer has a funny sound to signify the end)

6. Come up with alternative ways to complete a project that are more interesting or fun (e.g., practice spelling words by stamping letters into play dough)

7. Simplify and break down tasks into smaller chunks to make the task less overwhelming, more manageable, and motivating to complete (works especially well with checklists!)

8. Keep things playful and include high-interest activities if possible (e.g., using Paint on the computer to draw things for a book report first so you can help your child plan their final drawings that they'll draw by hand)

9. Make the boring tasks predictable since hyperlexic kids like routine (i.e., they're more likely to complete the tasks because it's so ingrained into their routine, especially if a high-interest activity follows)

10. Sing instead of talking or asking your child to do something (e.g., sing "brush brush brush your teeth, brush until they're clean" to the tune of Row Your Boat)

11. Do something wrong and unexpected because the hyperlexic child often can't resist fixing your mistake (e.g., put their pants on their head, ask them if that's the correct way to wear the pants, and then ask them to show you how to really put on their pants)

12. Offer choices for how and when to complete a task, giving your child some control over the task (they're more likely to follow through when they are in control or made the decisions themselves)

13. Appeal to their sense of logic and love for facts (e.g., eating your carrots gives you Vitamin A which is good for your eyes - trust me, they'll gobble up the facts and the carrots!)

14. Do the task together with your child (things are more fun together than alone and you can even combine this tip with tip #2 and face-off against your child in a fun game or challenge)

15. Use visual aids to help keep your child focused, on task, and motivated to complete things on time

16. Praise your child for their effort and the work they've put into something instead of the outcome

17. Follow your child's lead and consider their mood before requesting that a task get completed (e.g., your child just had a meltdown and is exhausted = don't ask them to practice the piano or do their homework at this moment)

18. Let your kids witness you doing hard things and be a role model (they'll pick up on your perseverance and emulate it)

19. Acknowledge their struggles and validate their feelings (then you can work together to problem solve some solutions to make it easier)

20. Don't fix things for them, but be there to help when and/if they need it (it's way more rewarding to fix something on your own than having someone else fix it)

21. Manage your own expectations, consider the way your hyperlexic child learns, and keep the goals realistic (i.e, don't set unrealistic and unobtainable goals if you know it's in an area your child might struggle with)

Other Hyperlexia Resources You'll Love

What the Hyperlexic Child Needs You to Know

The Best Books for Kids with Hyperlexia

More Hyperlexia Resources for Parents

Tips for how to motivate kids with hyperlexia