Confidence in children is extremely important. We have all had a child that is soo hesitant to try and work on their goals because they feel like they just can’t do it. They feel overwhelmed. Progress is very slow. In some cases, they have had a bad experience with a SLP and don’t want to be there. An important part of therapy is to help build their confidence so they can improve and be more active members during therapy.
Confidence allows children to go out and explore more of the world, take risks, make new friends or talk to new people. It will allow them to keep working on those aspects of their lives that can be really really tricky. I have had many discussion about building confidence as a way of helping children function more successfully in school.
Keep in mind that it is not only the children with significant communication challenges that need a boost. Children with mild articulation difficulties, due to their lack of confidence, can have it significantly impact their lives. With SLPs taking on the role of coach and cheerleader, children are able to gain some much needed confidence. The children are able to improve participation in school even if they still working on their goals.
Age does not play a factor. Children as young as two have come through therapy who are incredibly anxious. You play with them or try to work your “therapy magic.” All that happens is that their eyes get huge and/or they shut down and/or they start to cry and/or seek comfort from an adult. For older children, it can be out and out refusal to go or to participate.
When working with children, always keep in mind the level that child is at in relation to their goals. What kind of supports do they need and don’t need? What can you do to make it hard enough so that it is challenging but not so hard that they won’t be successful? This helps to build confidence.
Providing specific feedback is important. This helps speed therapy along but also shows children (and their parents) what is going right and what you are skills working on. Using phrases such as “that’s getting close, now remember _______” or “do remember when _____ was tricky for you. Now it’s easy.” This too builds confidence.
Encouragement is also a big consideration when building confidence. What kinds are effective and appropriate for that specific child. Some children don’t like high fives, others do. Some kids want very matter of fact praise such as “that was a great _____.” Other children may want a bigger production made. It is also important to acknowledge their hard work, especially if it was a hard session.
Finally I want to thank all the children who remind me how important confidence is. Those children are no longer hiding when meeting new people but now approaches them. That is how confidence has impacted their lives.