Student motivation has always been closely linked to academic achievement and success. Even in the field of learning disabilities (LD) research, motivation has been found to exert significant effects on academic functioning. Here are 5 ways to help SPIKE your child’s motivation in his/her learning:

Structure Your Child’s Learning

Set your child tasks that are challenging yet within his/her capability to successfully complete as repeated success is the best way to increase your child’s confidence. If the task is too easy, your child may not gain any satisfaction or self-confidence from completing it. On the other hand, if it is too difficult, your child may become frustrated and possibly more convinced that he/she is not capable of completing difficult tasks. As such, structure your child’s learning in a way that allows him/her to overcome challenges in incremental difficulty.

Praise, Based on Effort

Everyone loves to feel affirmed! Our children are no exception. However, it is often easier for us to acknowledge our children based on the tangible results rather than the intangible process and effort put in to attain the results. Praising your child based on his/her efforts on academic tasks, regardless of the results, helps to build your child’s confidence and motivation to accomplish future tasks. Improve on just saying “Good job!”, by commenting “I like how you paid extra attention to check and edit your work before submitting your paper this time around!” In all, effort-based praise is about being specific, realistic and sincere.

Instil Hope

Studies show that more hopeful students perform better in school and in life than less hopeful students. A paper published in 2006 also found that children with LD reported lower levels of hope than their non-LD-matched peers; even among academically-successful children with LD, a portion of them continued to have lower levels of hope. Parents and educators, especially of children with LD, play an instrumental role in instilling hope in their child’s perspective towards learning. One way is to cite older children, family members or famous others who have become successful in their fields despite having LD. Focus on your child’s aspirations and frame it as a realistic future. Another way is to introduce assistive technology. Assure your child that there are avenues of support to help make tasks that appear difficult to them more accessible.

Keep it Fun!

Use interactive ways of instruction to ensure your child stays engaged in his/her learning. Video tutorials, concrete manipulatives and demonstrations are accessible and excellent start-points to engage your child. The key is to engage your child across various senses through visual, auditory, tactile methods.

Empathise with your child

It is not easy to live with LD. Empathising with your child’s experiences in coping with LD can help to establish a trusting and secure relationship. Try using statements like “I can only imagine how difficult it is for you” or “It must’ve been tough for you”. A secure relationship founded on trust is a good springboard for increasing your child’s receptiveness to corrective feedback and persuasion for increased motivation and academic effort.

Written by: Scarlet Leong, Specialist Psychologist

Lackaye, T., Margalit, M., Ziv, O., & Ziman, T. (2006). Comparisons of Self-Efficacy, Mood, Effort, and Hope Between Students with Learning Disabilities and Their Non-LD-Matched Peers. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 21(2), 111–121.
Linnenbrink, E. A., & Pintrich, P. R. (2002). Motivation as an enabler for academic success. School Psychology Review, 31(3), 313-327.
Sideridis, G. D., & Scanlon, D. (2006). Motivational Issues in Learning Disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly, 29(3), 131–135.
The Power of Praise, Amanda Morin. Retrieved from