3 Ways to Help Your Special Needs Child in the Classroom

October 22, 2013 Heiddi Zalamar, LMHC, MA

Hiya parents! As school has been in session a little over a five weeks, I wanted to share some tips to help your special needs child in the classroom. One of the biggest challenges parents of children with mental illness have is dealing with issues in the classroom. How can you possibly work on something with your special needs child if you're not even in the classroom? Well, these are tips that can help you help your special needs child.

Meet with your child's teacher

I've mentioned this tip in an earlier post, but it is such an important one. Your child's teacher is the one that spends the most time with your child. While this is so, you can make a great school plan working together with your child's teacher. This way, you can prevent challenging moments in the classroom before they start. Bob, his teacher and I met after an incident with a kid bothering Bob in school. Granted, this was NOT how I wanted to start the school year, but we all came up with ideas for Bob to use in the classroom so that he doesn't get into trouble.

Remind your child of accomplishments

To get positive behavior in the classroom from your special needs child, your child needs to remember how amazing he or she is. With this encouragement, your special needs child will give you the behavior you want. I often talk with Bob about how proud I am of him for his accomplishments. I let him know how much confidence I have in him to get things done because of how he proved himself in the past. Bob continues to give me even more positive behavior. He's not perfect, but he earns privileges when he does what he needs to do.

Use consequences for positive motivation

No, this is NOT a bribe. This is about encouraging your special needs child to do the right thing because it feels good emotionally. Consequences also don't need to cost you a penny. It could be as simple as an extra bedtime story or baking cookies with your child. With Bob, I've had him earn a later bedtime during the weekends or even shoveling snow! (Last winter he wanted to shovel snow so badly that he made sure ALL of his chores AND homework was complete!). And no, this was not my idea, but his.

Kids want to please their parents; it's about knowing how to use positive consequences for positive behavior. How can this work in the classroom? Bob knows that he is responsible for getting his work done properly and bring all of the materials needed for homework. When Bob doesn't complete his work, he doesn't get an extra consequence. For Bob, it is usually an earlier bedtime over the weekend - which he HATES. But, it also motivates him the following week to get things done in the classroom.

Hopefully, these tips will not only help you work as a team with your special needs child and his or her teacher, but they will also motivate your child to give you the positive behavior you're looking for. Parenting is not an easy job; even harder when your child has a mental illness. It is imperfect and challenging, but making positive changes can help your special needs child succeed.

Bonus tip - make sure to provide the consequences the same day (for young children) and the same week for school-age children. Consequences work when timed correctly.

Picture by Heiddi Zalamar - 2012

APA Reference
Zalamar, H. (2013, October 22). 3 Ways to Help Your Special Needs Child in the Classroom, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 25 from

Author: Heiddi Zalamar, LMHC, MA

Leave a reply