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A child’s environment is vital to his/her future health and success. For the parents of children with a cognitive disability, the task of creating an appropriate environment can be daunting. Children with this diagnosis require an environment that is calm, predictable, and supportive. Children with cognitive disabilities require simple, concrete behavioral expectations in their environment. In addition, they must experience immediate, consistent, non-shaming consequences (that are appropriate for their individual level of functioning) for not meeting those expectations. Short-term behavior goals matched with equally short-term consequences may be the most effective method for children with cognitive disability. The important aspect to remember is to ensure that it is a realistic goal for the individual child. Incorporating all of the above aspects is no small feat.
These children often require intense supervision and structure in the environment. They often do best in their environment when they came to understand the schedule and routine of the day. Parents with children who function at an intellectually disabled level often find their child will require multiple parenting and teaching strategies for him/her to be more successful.
- Utilize verbal cues and visual reminders-
- The use of a daily schedule along with a timer could be effective.
- Utilize posters to remind the child of the house schedule, a hygiene checklist, chores, etc.
- Broken down segments can be utilized if the child is being asked to complete a large or complex task that he does not enjoy. If asked to complete the task in its entirety they may feel overwhelmed. The use of breaks may be seen as a reward.
- Focus on the positive aspects of a behavior whether that is what the child has done well or what positive behavior you want him to be doing as opposed to focusing solely on the behavior you don’t want him to be doing.
- Model behaviors/expectations with the child– He may need someone to help him complete his tasks daily to model the appropriate behavior. It is important to not assume that the child is capable of completing tasks without examples or redirections. Showing them how to fold his clothes, for example, and then have him demonstrate with you next to him.
- Rotate motivation/reward strategies– Children with cognitive disabilities appear to have a tendency to become easily bored with tasks. By rotating motivation or reward systems they will continually have new incentives.
- Sticker charts- for following directions or completing chores they will receive a sticker. At the end of the night the stickers can get added up for rewards: play game with mom, 15-min later bedtime, an extra bedtime story, etc.
- Game pieces- have a large “game board” posted on a wall. Each positive day he gets a game piece to tape to the board. Once he fills up the board he gets something special like a one on one day with mom.
- Penny jar- the child gets a penny for completing chores or following rules. Parents will have a designated chart for “prizes” to buy with the pennies that he can “cash in” at anytime but better prizes will cost more.
- Point cards- the child earns points for positive behaviors and negative points for inappropriate behaviors. At the end of the day the child totals up to see what privileges he has access to. He also can total up twice a day if the rewards need to be more immediate.
- Banker- utilized the same way as point cards only with toy money that he cashes in at the end of the day.