Chapter 4 – Motivation: The Key to Everything.
Kate Wilde, Director, The Son-Rise Program
Motivation is everything. We work harder, learn quicker and engage more when we are really interested and enjoying what we are doing. Raun K. Kaufman in his book, “Autism Breakthrough: The Groundbreaking Method that has Helped Families All Over the World.” says:
“Motivation is the engine of growth. It is the single largest factor in your child’s learning and progress. When a child is following his or her own intrinsic interests and motivations, learning comes fast and furious.”
I worked with Gabriella a beautiful young girl of 7. Gabriella loved food, wanted to eat and look at pictures of food all day long. At that time food was her one and only motivation. Because Gabriella focused nearly all of her attention around food her parents were trying to move her away from food and get her into doing something else. They wanted her to read, learn math, and experience more of what “the world had to offer”. They did this by introducing subjects and things that had nothing to do with food. This was not working. She showed no interest in what they were offering her. This was because they were completely ignoring what it is that she enjoyed – food.
The idea is to use your child motivations, by marrying the goal or skill you want your child to learn with what it is they enjoy. We did that with Gabriella. So instead of trying to get her away from the subject of food we embraced it and made it the central focus of everything we offered her.
Over the next two years she learned to speak through naming all the different foods. She learned math by cooking her favorite foods and measuring out the ingredients. She learned to be flexible and spontaneous by making up her own recipes. She learned about the different cultures of the world through studying their different foods. She even learned French and Italian!
It is important to note that this is not about giving rewards for a job well done. It is about putting what they enjoy at the center of the activity or learning.
This is going to be so important as you go about encouraging your child to do all the skills outlined in this book.
Carl was 10 years old and he loved staccato rhythms. He would tap out rhythms using his fingers on the floor the walls and the backs of books. His preferred state of being was to lie on a beanbag and tap out rhythms. One goal we worked on with him was to encourage him to be more active. So I brought in a skipping rope. Instead of introducing it to him in a traditional way I showed him how he could use the skipping robe in a way that I knew would interest him first. I took the handles of the skipping rope and tapped out a rhythm. I then gave it to him and he taped out a rhythm. Then I swung the skipping robe in a way that the rope made a rhythm on the floor. This helped him become interested and interact with the skipping rope. We had a lot of fun and by the end of the session he had attempted to skip. Hooray for Carl! Putting what he was motivated for, tapping at the center of the activity helped him reach the goal of being more active.
FIND OUT WHAT MOTIVATES YOUR CHILD
We can find out what really motivates our children by observing where they put their attention. Then we can marry their motivation with the goal we have for our child. This book is about how to help our children with their self help skills such as taking a bath, sitting on the toilet, eating new foods and much more. These endeavors will be so much more successful if we do them in a way that interests our children. For some of you it will be immediately obvious to you what motivates your child, for others it may not be so apparent. The exercise below is designed to help you find out what motivates your child.
Spend 15 minutes a day for five days just observing your child as they play by themselves. Notice not just what they are playing with but how they are playing with it. What senses are they predominately using? As you observe them notice what they are doing, if they are tapping things with their fingers then that is their motivation. It does not have to be playing with something in the traditional sense. Our children play and explore differently. The following list will help you observe in a particular way. Just tick the boxes that are relevant to your child.
He touches or taps things in a rhythmic way.
□ The rhythm is fast
□ The rhythm is slow
□ The rhythm is staccato
□ The rhythm is syncopated
*Write your child’s favorite rhythm in the space provided below.
He is visually stimulated.
□ He looks at things out of the corner of his eye
□ He lines things up in neat rows
□ He likes to arrange things in scenes
□ He likes to arrange thing in piles
□ He stares at the wall, or ceiling, or at the woodwork, or light switches
□ He stares intently at his own fingers as he slowly wiggles them
□ He looks at patterns while running his fingers over the pattern
□ He will watch the credits role down the TV again and again
□ He will draw
□ He likes to watch the chalk dust fall
□ He watches things that move like fans or any electrical equipment
□ He stares at light on floorboards
□ He watches little things falling through the air like rice
□ He watches a scarves fall through the air
□ He closely watches the wheels of a car spin
□ He watches a piece of string dangle
□ He waves a belt along the floor watching it move like a snake
*Write what and how your child watches things in the space provided below.
She likes to engage in physical activities.
□ She runs from one side of the room to another banging her hands into the walls
□ She paces using large steps starting slowly and gathering speed, then slowing down and again gathering speed
□ She flaps her hand, stimulating mainly his wrists
□ She flaps her fingers only
□ She shakes her head from side to side
□ She pushing her tongue against the side of his cheeks
□ She chews on any object she has
□ She slaps the side of her head, legs, or claps her hands.
□ She jumps
□ She is constantly in perpetual motion
□ She holds an object most of the time
*Write your child’s particular physical activity in the space provided below.
He likes to listen to sounds.
□ He puts a car up close to his ear and listens to the whirl of the car wheels
□ He makes sounds to himself as he jumps, spins, or watches things fall
□ He listens to the clank of a belt buckle falling to the ground as he watches it fall
□ He bangs doors, listening to the click of the door handle opening or closing
□ He says the same phrase or word over and over again, with a particular inflection or rhythm
□ He shakes bells
*Add the specific sound your child likes to hear in the space below.
She likes patterns.
□ She likes to do puzzles
□ She likes numbers
□ She likes to spell words
□ She likes to solve math problems
*In the space below write your child own specific interest in patterns.
He likes to engage with textures and touch.
□ He loves soft things
□ He loves hard and bumpy textures
□ He loves furry things
□ He likes sand paper
□ He will wrap himself up in a blanket
□ He loves silky cloths
□ He will roll cars up and down his arms
□ He likes soft touch
□ He likes hard pressure like squeezes
□ He loves ribbon
□ He loves the feel of hair
*In the space below write any other texture or touch your child likes.
What kind of spaces does she like?
□ She likes the doors and windows to be open
□ She will always close the door
□ She will surround herself with cushions
□ She will play underneath the table, or in a small play tent or lay house
□ She will play surrounded by a fortress of books or stuffed animals
□ She likes to play in a dark space
□ She likes to play in a light space
*In the space provided below write down any other kind of space your child enjoys.
What type of characters does he like?
□ Plastic Disney characters?
□ Soft plush Disney characters?
□ Movie characters?
□ Characters from a storybook?
*Write your child favorite characters in the space provided below.
What music or song does your child like?
□ Write them down in the space provided below.
Does your child show you a color preference?
If so write in the space provided below.
This time notice how your child responds to what YOU do. As you read below see if your child likes you to do any of these actions. If you’re not sure then find out by trying the action with your child. If they do, then that’s their motivation.
□ Speaking in funny voices, like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck
□ Using slapstick humor like pretending to fall on a banana peel
□ Big gestures, and big facial expressions
□ Big celebrations
□ Singing to them
□ Playing musical instrument
□ Dancing in big and funny ways
□ Using anticipation
□ Talking softly
□ Clapping hands
□ Pretending to be an animal
□ Reading books out loud
□ Tickling him
□ Big squeezes
□ Blowing on his body
Add any other things that you do that motivate your child in the space below.
Now you have just created a list of your child’s own unique motivations. As you read the upcoming chapters use these specific motivations to encourage your child to want to do the goals in this book, by putting your child’s motivation at the center of the activity. For example:
Marcus’s story: goal = eat new foods, motivation = Spiderman.
Marcus was 5 and completely in love with Spiderman. I think the only clothes he ever wore while I knew him was a Spider Man Costume – so cute! While he loved spider man he seemed not to be so interested in eating. He was underweight and his parents understandably were very concerned about his health. So we took his motivation for Spider man and married it with our goal of wanting him to eat. We started by making up stories about what Spiderman loved to eat after he has done his days work of being a super hero. He was amazing at drawing so we drew cartoons together about spider man and every place we could we would draw spider man eating, or stopping off at the shops to get his favorite foods. These were of course all the different foods that we wanted Marcus to eat. We would then bring in what we started to call “Spiderman Meals”. We introduced the food on Spiderman party plates and while we were playing we would stop for a Spiderman munch. Within a couple of weeks he had started to put on weight. This was because we made eating the most interesting we could for him by putting what he enjoyed most “Spiderman” at the center of the activity.
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