Each week we welcome volunteers that come to help in our e-programs. We want each volunteer to have a great experience and continue to volunteer. When working with special needs children there are a few tips that will help make the experience a success for both the volunteer and the student in need of special needs support.
1. Be patient
All Kids need patience from their coaches or mentors. Special needs kids, particularly have more difficulty or challenges due to slower processing, physical disabilities, and often fear trying new things.
When helping a child learn a new activity, give them time to respond. They can also get distracted, so calmly talk them through what you would like them to do and why. Let them know that they can take their time if they are having difficulties.
2. Ask questions
This is one of the greatest ways to help children with special needs. Your best resource is one or both parents. There is no one who knows the child better than mom or dad. Parents are grateful for your help and are happy to help a volunteer understand how best to work with their child.
Finally, ask the child. Many times they know what works for them and what doesn’t. Giving the child the opportunity to express their needs often times leads to a great response.
3. Set goals
Goals give children something to aim for. Rewards such as a cheer, or praise, or their favorite drink can be great motivators. Accomplishing little goals can help a child feel successful. Small steps can actually be a lot less overwhelming when a greater task is expected.
Don’t be afraid to change the goal for a child. Sometimes the ultimate goal will take longer due to special needs, but if the child can achieve small goals along the way they are experiencing success.
4. Look for their strengths
Every child has strengths; it is the coach’s job to find them. Their strength may be their athleticism or their creativity, their ability to encourage others, their willingness to care for others, their willingness to listen. Finding and pointing out their strengths will boost their confidence. And motivate them to keep trying.
5. Cheer for them
This is really helpful for kids and kids in need of special needs support. Based on their special needs some kids will like loud cheers and jumping in the air. Some may want a gentle high-five; some may like a pat on the back or a “Great job, Jack.” Whatever it is, you can never give too much encouragement!
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