The second half of the school year can present its own unique set of challenges, especially for parents of children with learning difficulties and/or disabilities. The novelty and excitement of a new year, new classes and new things to learn has well and truly worn off by semester two and fatigue, boredom, motivation dips and other behavioural issues can all rise to the fore.
You would hope that your child’s school would be well equipped to deal with fluctuating engagement levels throughout the year and adjust strategies as needed, but if you’re looking at things you can assist with, we’re here to help with some ideas. In this article, we’ll look at some of the potential reasons behind a child’s decline in motivation and provide practical tips to help you nurture and sustain your child’s engagement throughout the entire school year.
Understand the factors (and don’t discount the physical ones!)
Motivational decline can stem from various factors such as fatigue, academic pressure, or a sense of monotony. Talk to your child’s teachers to understand the specific challenges they may be facing and identify any underlying causes. For many children with disability, while mental fatigue is a real thing, physical tiredness can significantly impact a child’s motivation and engagement in school. As the school year progresses, the accumulation of academic and extracurricular demands, coupled with potential sleep disruptions, can leave children feeling exhausted. You can work on diet, sleep and rest at home but also talk to the school about whether your child needs a modified timetable, scheduled breaks or other accommodations to enable them to recharge.
Set meaningful goals
If their development level is appropriate, you can work with your child and school to set meaningful and achievable goals for the remainder of the school year. These goals should be specific, measurable, and relevant to their interests and aspirations. Break larger goals into smaller milestones to provide a sense of progress and accomplishment along the way. Regularly revisit and celebrate achievements to maintain their motivation.
Re-establish strong communication channels
Effective communication between parents, teachers, and support staff is vital for your child’s success. We know that parents and schools are run off their feet most days – and it’s easy to let communication slide and only pop our head above the parapet when things go wrong – but regularly scheduled meetings and email exchanges can help maintain a strong partnership and ensure everyone is working towards the same goals. You can also work with teachers to explore additional resources or strategies that can support your child’s motivation and engagement. Working together as a team will help create a consistent and cohesive learning experience for your child.
Revisit the IEP
If your child has an Individualised Education Plan (IEP) or a similar document, you should take a look and ensure it reflects your child’s current needs and goals. Discuss any necessary modifications or accommodations with the school team based on any issues that may have arisen in the first two terms of the year.
Encourage self-advocacy skills
Empower your child to become their own advocate by teaching them self-advocacy skills. Help them understand their learning difficulties or disabilities, build their self-confidence, and encourage them to communicate their needs effectively to teachers and peers. When children can express their challenges and advocate for themselves, they become active participants in their education.
Support emotional well-being
Students with learning difficulties or disabilities may face emotional challenges related to academic pressures or social interactions. Be attentive to any signs of stress or anxiety in your child and foster a supportive environment at home. Encourage them to express their feelings and provide strategies for managing stress, anxiety, feelings of rejection and ways to build resilience. Consider relaxation techniques, engaging in hobbies, or seeking support from school counsellors or therapists.
Celebrate progress and effort
Acknowledge and celebrate your child’s progress and efforts, regardless of the outcome. Recognise their hard work, perseverance, and improvements in specific areas. Praising their efforts and highlighting their strengths will help build their self-confidence and foster a positive attitude towards learning.
Make learning real
Some students find it hard to ‘see the point’ of learning. Try to connect academic subjects to real-life situations and practical applications. Show your child how what they’re learning in school relates to their everyday experiences, future goals, or areas of interest.
Seek additional support
If your child requires additional support beyond the resources available at school, explore external services or professionals specialising in learning difficulties and disabilities. Consider seeking guidance from specialists, tutors, or therapists who can offer tailored strategies and interventions to address your child’s unique needs.
Time out (for everyone!)
We’re not advocating continual non-attendance here, but there’s a lot to be said for mental health days. The occasional day spent doing something together in the fresh air or something your child loves at home instead being at school and in the office can work wonders for resetting emotions and engagement.
Sustaining motivation throughout the latter half of the school year for our unique kids requires a thoughtful and proactive approach by both schools and parents. By reassessing goals, fostering effective communication, and promoting self-advocacy skills, you empower your child to overcome challenges and thrive in their educational journey. your support, encouragement, and belief in their abilities are instrumental in helping them navigate the challenges and achieve their full potential.