Ages and Stages, Hearing, Tips and Tricks

31 for 21: Postive praise for children with Down syndrome

Do you ever see something and think, “How crazy is that? It was like it was there for me.” I’ve had this happen dozens of times over the last few years. Yesterday a parent shared with me her “it was there for me” experience. A picture in the exam room of her pediatrician’s office said this,

“Nothing improves a child’s hearing more than praise.”

Do you know how hard it is to provide praise? A lot harder than criticism. We can talk all day about what annoys us, but identifying what makes us happy and telling the other person about it is another story.

Providing praise is especially important for children with Down syndrome. As children with DS grow they are like other children – they make mistakes, they misbehave, they assert their own will against ours. As parents, caregivers, teachers, and therapists it is easier to spot the undesired behavior… forgetting that encouragement is important too.

Children pick up very quickly on praise. One of my favorite apps/video games is called “Buddy Bear.” If the child answers the question correctly she’s praised by the narrator, “good job!” My little patients learn this almost immediately and begin to respond simultaneously with the app, “good job!”

Even my tiny patients (pre-walkers) learn to expect praise during therapy. They clap and yell, “Yay!” as soon as they complete one activity – like putting a block in a bucket – even if it was a miss! We all want praise. We want to be appreciated and feel like we’re doing the right thing. We want to know expectations and live up to them.

“You can catch more flies with honey.”

Do you get tired of saying, “good job?” Are you looking for more effective ways of encouraging your child with DS? Learn provide praise that is descriptive, sincere, and enthusiastic. Aim the praise at a specific behavior.

In providing descriptive praise for children with Down syndrome it is important to be clear. Tell the child what they did correctly, not what they avoided. Affirm the desired behavior that the child demonstrated.

Here are some examples:

  • The 8-year-old who picked up his shoes and put them away, “You put your shoes away. You did it by yourself!” Not, “You didn’t throw your shoes. Good job!”
  • The 5-year-old learning to play Don’t Break the Ice, “You waited. You’re taking turns!” Not, “You didn’t take an extra turn!”

Once you get into the specific praise habit you won’t find yourself actively looking for chances to praise the child as frequently. Describing what your child does right will come easily.

Here are some more resources on providing praise:

Praise to build a child up

Descriptive praise for behavior motivation

More effective praise


4 thoughts on “31 for 21: Postive praise for children with Down syndrome”

  1. Your are SO welcome. I feel honored. The
    blog is inspiring & informative, thank you
    for writing it. You are such a blessing to
    us for so many reasons. Sending you a big
    hug from Jack!

      1. I am always inspired by your web site, Our Joshua who has great speech problems, (he is 12 years old) is praised each time he says things that surprises us, as a granny of 5 they are all praised but it is so special when he does say things, he is a great copier and would put most “normal” kids to shame, he is like all of them such a blessing, but in my eyes a ‘little’ bit special, if only I could talk to him more, thanks again for your web site as I say it is inspiring
        Granny Jean

      2. Thank you for your kind words! I’ve worked with several children through the years with no speech at all. Each was so expressive in other ways I wondered what we could do to unlock what was inside. I’m sure you’d love to unlock your Joshua! Keep talking to him and providing him praise – He understands how much you care.

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