9 Tips for Encouraging a Child with SEN

We share ways you can encourage your child with SEN.

Being praised and encouraged is a great way to help boost your child’s self-esteem and create a healthy self-image that can last into adulthood. Children need to feel valued for what they do well, and not just told off for what they do wrong - whether they have Special Educational Needs (SEN) or not.

But if they do have SEN, whatever it may be from autism, hyperactivity, sensory processing disorder or Asperger's to unidentified developmental delays, it adds another layer for parents to manage. It's important to try to minimise unwanted behaviour by showing you respect and appreciate all the good things that your child can do well to please you and their teachers at school.

Here are nine ways you can gently encourage your little one, to help them feel proud of all the amazing things they can do.

  1. Create opportunities for your child to take responsibility for tasks at home - this can build a sense of pride and achievement. The tasks can be as simple or complex as you like, depending on how well you think your child will respond. Whether it’s helping to put clothes in the washing machine, matching socks together, or setting the table. You know your child best so play to their strengths.
  2. Provide lots of positive, descriptive praise for what your child does well - this can enable your child to believe that you appreciate the efforts they have made, and feel good about their achievements.
  3. Ensure that instructions are clear and broken down into understandable chunks – most children can disengage when instructions are too long or expressed in dull tones. Keep the instructions clear, manageable, and try your best to make them sound fun.
  4. Ensure that you give individual time to engage in meaningful conversations - children who do not feel confident in listening and responding retreat into short yes or no answers. See this as an opportunity to spend time with your little one, and gently engage them in conversation.
  5. Inspire your child to learn specific skills which build self-confidence - If, as a parent, you can find the time to encourage new life skills and make learning fun this can benefit your child, as schools are often more focused on delivering the curriculum.
  6. Make talking about feelings a frequent and acceptable area of conversation - children who learn to express their feelings to their parents, have more time to become aware of themselves and their emotions. The more self-conscious they are, the better able they could be to interpret other people's behaviour and reactions, which is an important life skill.
  7. Talk about past and present events that have involved your child and discuss how they could have been handled differently - Developing empathy and self-awareness will help your child seek for alternative behaviour that may cause fewer difficulties at school and at home.
  8. Children who are deemed to have SEN may become hyperactive or hard to manage, especially if they are bored – This can lead to them not enjoying lessons and holding teachers in contempt and becoming disruptive. It may upset them that they seem to be told off more than other children. If they are old enough to understand. Help your child develop sympathy for other adults in their lives and to understand and appreciate the stresses of being a teacher with a large group of children to satisfy.
  9. Ensure that your child becomes resilient to how others react to him, although not contemptuous of any criticism that is directed at them - Explain that valid criticism can be helpful as it means that we can view ourselves as other people see us and try to modify our behaviour when circumstances require it. Children quickly learn that different behaviour is expected with different audiences, and this knowledge is like power over themselves. Call it their 'superpower' of self-control. Children love to pretend that just like their superheroes, they can practice a superpower.

It could be a beneficial idea to talk to your child’s teacher about how you are trying to support them at home, but always be circumspect in the way you explain the strategies that you may be using to empower your child, so everyone is on the same page. You’re working together as a team to ensure your child has all the support they need around them to succeed.

Monitor your child's progress and ensure that you continue to bolster their confidence and self-esteem. You may find that their behaviour improves or settles down into a new routine when your child employs the strategies you have developed together, combined with teachers getting used to your child's needs.


What is SEN?

Special educational needs (SEN) is used to describe a wide range of children who have very different needs that affect educational development. For the most part, these children are attending mainstream state primary and secondary schools, as well as schools in the private sector.

The term refers to children who have a range of conditions, either emotional, social or developmental, and therefore not learning skills at the same rate or in the same way as their peers in the class.

It can be that these children have been diagnosed with a specific syndrome and that they have a medical or psychological label that has been categorised and entitles them to specific support that the school has been subsidised to implement. However, many of these children will not be considered 'severe' enough cases to qualify as having SEN, thereby triggering a statement and additional support funding, so it is important to be empowered to do what you can at home and through liaising with the school.