Helping Children Learn New Skills and Gain Independence

Many parents stand by in frustration wondering how they can help a challenged child develop new skills. First and foremost, we need to rid our minds of the word disabled. Perceive your child instead as challenged with the capability to be enabled versus disabled. The biggest gift we give our children is to step back and allow them to struggle a bit. Through struggles a child learns perseverance. Perseverance will fuel a child with the energy to work hard at developing skills and build self esteem. Our natural inclination as a parent is to swoop in and rescue a child when they struggle, cry, or attempt to give up because a learning experience has challenged them. As the parent of a young adult with learning disabilities I have experienced this feeling many times.


Unfortunately by rescuing our children we unconsciously condition them to be dependent on us. The ultimate goal must be to develop as much independence and skills as realistically possible. I cannot state how many times I have struggled with my own son and a child in the classroom as well who had a meltdown when I wanted them to do things on their own. I say pour your own glass of water, they say but I will spill it Miss Mari. I stand my ground with gentle acceptance. I let the child know that if he spills that it is only water and can be cleaned. Always resist the urge to “assist” the child when they have not done a task how we perceive it should be done. The end result is the child that holds up that cup of water with a grin on his face stating, “look I did it, and all by myself”! Priceless. If a child struggles to put on their own shoes, they are giving you the sign that they wish to do so independently. Buy them Velcro shoes to make their struggle towards independence easier. If their motor skill issues keep them from independently making their bed, by a comforter that can easily be thrown over the bed without having to tuck it in.If their efforts appear shoddy, remember, the child believes they did a great job. Acknowledge their efforts by not correcting them.


Parents need to trust their own instincts in encouraging children to thrive. Believe in yourself. Please know I understand and would love to answer questions. I leave you with this thought. The baby bird doesn’t know it can fly until the mother bird pushes it out of the nest. The mother bird instinctively knows it is time to help the baby grow. The baby bird will flutter when airborne for the first time. It than instinctively flaps it’s wings and flies off. What more could a parent – animal or otherwise – wish for their child?

Remember, you have what it takes and don’t ever give up.


Mari Nosal received her Masters in Educational Foundations in 2009. She adores working with children and educators within the classroom. She has presented to The Children's Workshop team and shared her knowledge, experience, and insights with our staff. Mari offers tips on curriculum development and behavior modification within the classroom and through inservices.