Motivation and the Special Needs Child

March 4, 2014 Heiddi Zalamar, LMHC, MA

Motivation, where does it come from? Sometimes, I think about my own motivation, or lack thereof, and wonder what inspires me to push ahead. According to, motivation is the act or reason for behaving in a particular way. In my work as a therapist, I see children who are motivated by different things. Some are motivated by positive statements, others are motivated by being needy and still others are motivated by negative attention. For special needs children, or anyone else, motivation is no different.

Negative Attention as Motivation

It is sad to say, but for some children any attention is good attention, especially when the children feel deprived of attention in some way. I work with a few families where the children get into trouble often just to get their parents involved. It doesn't mean that the parents are bad, just that their circumstances don't allow them to give the attention that the children want.

Positive Attention

For other children, motivation comes from receiving positive attention. They strive to receive rewards or hear good things about themselves. I've met children who are so happy just to receive stickers for their efforts. I've also met children that simply need to hear positive things about themselves. I used to be one of these kids and still am this way as an adult. You see, everyone is motivated by something. Positive attention is motivation that moves you in a healthy way. I'm motivated by Bob. Having him inspired me to do so many things that I wouldn't have imagined before being a parent.

[caption id="attachment_2464" align="alignleft" width="256" caption="Motivation and the Special Needs Child "]Special needs children are just like others - some things motivate a child while others don't. Learn about what might motivate your special needs child.[/caption]

Bob's Motivation

Bob has always been a happy, sweet kid. He likes to smile and laugh and just have fun in everything he does. It is no wonder that he melts my heart. The director of the after-school program told me last night that Bob will be receiving a Kids On Pointe award for the month of February for positive behavior and meeting his goals. Bob's motivation is positive feedback. He likes getting awards, but more importantly he likes feeling good about himself. Bob responds well to positive feedback though, I do have to admit, he likes to get the things that he wants. Bob knows that if he wants to play with the downstairs neighbors, his room has to be clean or his homework needs to be done.

Motivation as Beauty

It is a beautiful thing to see a child motivated to do his or her best. Bob gets his responsibilities done faster, more easily and without any arguments. As long as we both know what to expect, motivation gets the job done. And then I'm a proud mom. Yes, I wish that Bob did everything I told him to do when I told him to do it, but that won't always happen. Just like I'm motivated to do well, so is he. But, what motivates one person doesn't motivate another.

Special needs children are no different from anyone else. They want to be loved, nurtured and cared for. Motivation can come from many things. Find out what motivates your child and see how well your child responds.

Photo credit: photosteve101 via photopin cc

APA Reference
Zalamar, H. (2014, March 4). Motivation and the Special Needs Child, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 21 from

Author: Heiddi Zalamar, LMHC, MA

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