5 Confidence-Building Activities for Special Needs Students

All children need help forming and boosting healthy self-esteem. Children with special needs need even more help. Low self-esteem in children with learning disabilities or other special needs can lead to future problems, like never asking for accommodations in school or at work

If you have a child or student with special needs, it's important that you take extra steps to boost their confidence. We're here with a few helpful confidence-building activities that anyone can try at home or in the classroom.

Read on to learn more.

1. Classroom Observation Buddies

If you teach students with special needs, you're likely already offering them praise and giving small rewards (even if they're just stickers) for good behavior. Your students rely on you for this, but it isn't always enough to boost their confidence. 

For even better confidence-boosting, consider having students observe each other. 

Treat this as a secret Santa project. You don't have to do it with every student at the same time (and it might be best to spread them out, though make sure that all students participate at some point).

Assign each student a mystery buddy. That mystery buddy will sneakily observe the student for a week and try to find something worthy of praise, like sharing toys or helping another child with an assignment.

Have the buddy make a special certificate for the other child and present it to them at the end of the week. This shows the student that people are paying attention to their hard work!

2. Goals Journals (Daily, Weekly, or Long-Term)

Have your student or child start a journal about goals. You might have to help them out. 

Have the child write down goals that they want to accomplish for the day, the week, and the long term. Daily goals should be written at the beginning of every day.

Have the child mark off goals as they complete them. If you keep the goals small and actionable, this is also a great way to help neurodivergent children who struggle with executive dysfunction

For the longer-term goals, have the children go back to that page every once in a while. They may be surprised at how many things that they've actually accomplished.

This is also a crucial way to teach children to set goals and make schedules. They'll start learning how to do this on their own.

3. T-Shirt Compliments Game

This is a lot of fun for a "free day" in the classroom. Many teachers love doing this during the last week of school. 

Have each child bring in a plain white t-shirt. Consider having a few spares available for children from lower-income families, just in case. You could have them tye-dye the shirts if they have extra free time, but this isn't a necessary part of the activity. 

Each child gets a permanent marker. Provide plenty of fun colors so the shirts can be prettier at the end of the activity.

Have the children write positive things or fun memories about each other on the backs of the t-shirts while they're wearing them. This way, the children don't know what the other children are writing until the activity is over. 

Make sure to monitor the children both to help with writing and to ensure that everything said is kind. 

When the children turn their shirts around, they'll get to see all of the positive things that their classmates have to say about them! This is great for confidence development. 

4. Letters To Yourself

This is a great activity, but keep in mind that some children may need extra help when it comes to writing letters.

Have each child write two letters. The first will be to their present self and the second will be to their future self. For the present self letter, children should write what they like about themselves, what they like to do, who their friends are, and any other positive things (even if they struggle with positivity).

They can also write about goals or things that they're struggling with at the time. 

For the future self letter, the children should offer advice, ask about accomplishments, and "check in" as if they were talking to a friend.

Put these letters away for several months (or for the entire school year) and open them during the last week of class. Children get to evaluate their growth and see how their current self is similar or different from the "future self" they wrote to in the past.

If you get parents involved, you can also give the "future self" notes to the parents to give to the children years in the future. 

5. Let the Child Choose an Activity

Whether you're helping a student or your own child, this can be a huge (and surprising) confidence booster. Allow your child to choose an activity, game, or book (within reason). This gives them agency and lets them know that they're capable of making their own decisions. 

Even if the activity is imaginative, find a way to do it. 

You can also set aside a day in the classroom to let a child teach something with your help. Let them make a brief lesson where they can teach a craft, a hobby, or any other type of activity to the other students.

This will make them feel more capable and respected. 

Try These Fun Confidence-Building Games and Activities

It's not hard to build a child's confidence as long as you're willing to listen to them and devote time to their mental health. Confidence development happens during early childhood, and these confidence-building activities can help. 

Which ones will you try with your child or students?

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