How to Promote Positive Behavior in Children With Learning Disabilities

Written by tammy domeier
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How to Promote Positive Behavior in Children With Learning Disabilities
Promote a child's positive behaviour. (playing children image by Marzanna Syncerz from

Children with learning disabilities often have brain processes that work differently from other children. Schools and social situations are often perplexing to them, or they may have difficulty focusing or short attention spans. The keys to promoting positive behaviour in children with learning disabilities are to correctly assess the main learning obstacles and how they affect the child's behaviour, to devise a strategy using positive reinforcement and appropriate consequences, and then to implement the plan consistently and fairly.

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    Ask the child about his or her personal interests, such as hobbies, favourite movies or favourite sports. Depending on the amount of time you will spend with the child, you can ask more probing questions, such as what he or she likes and dislikes the most about school and what he or she would change about his or her school or home life. Then tailor an academic and behavioural reward system based around the child's interests.

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    Assess the type of behaviour problem and why it is occurring. It is important to determine whether a child is misbehaving because of a skill deficiency or because of a performance deficiency. For example, a research study done by Center, Deitz, and Kaufman (1982) found a correlation between academic difficulty and misbehavior. They found that if the material was either too easy or too difficult for the child, frequency of misbehavior increased.

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    Set appropriate intrinsic and extrinsic motivators that are geared towards the child's age and interests. Intrinsic motivators include tailoring tasks to include the child's interests or allowing the child to set his or her own schedule for completing tasks. Extrinsic motivators include tangible rewards such as food, prizes, trinkets and token reinforcers, such as happy face stickers or points, toward extra free time

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    Communicate boundaries of appropriate behaviour clearly. Make sure the child understands the consequences by having him or her verbalise expectations of appropriate behaviour. If behavioural problems occur, one way to communicate the effects of the child's misbehavior is by telling the child how their disruptive behaviour affects you or other people.

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    Explain rules, rewards and consequences and follow through consistently. Rules help provide structure and predictability. Unfortunately, children often learn about rules only when they break them. Set concrete rules such as "Raise your hand before you speak" instead of vague rules such as "Be considerate." The reward and consequences must match the infraction. For example, the fourth time a child breaks a rule should carry a heavier consequence than the first time.

Tips and warnings

  • Find accommodations that can help the child. For example, teachers can modify classroom routines to help children with learning disabilities. Teachers may need to read instructions aloud as well as provide written instructions, or the child could record lectures with a tape recorder. (See References 2)

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