Children with hearing loss often spend a lot of time in therapy. Some children even participate in therapy multiple times a day (such as AVT, SLP, SPED, TOD, OT, PT). It is during these sessions that some children unintentionally learn that there is a correct answer or a correct way to do things. The sound heard was this, not that. There is a correct way to say a speech sound, there is a correct way to use a grammatical structure, there is a correct answer to a math problem, there is a correct way to spell a word, I can go on and on. It is these children who sometimes become stuck on getting it correct, rather than learning the process of how to get there. I have seen some children become so worried about being right, that they shut down and won’t answer, if they are unsure of the correct answer. Teaching risk taking is an important part of the therapeutic process and a key to raising a successful child.
Teaching risk taking is important for all children, not only for the child with hearing loss. Children learn that it’s okay to not know the answer or not know how to go about solving a problem. It’s even okay to be wrong after making an attempt. We all know the phrase “learn from your mistakes”. Children who learn to give it a try, can broaden their knowledge just by making mistakes and learning from them.
Risk taking is the ability to take a guess and make an attempt whether right or wrong. While at some point in school, children learn about estimation in math, it is important for this skill to be taught at an even earlier age. When a child doesn’t know an answer, he or she can problem solve to take a guess. Teaching your child this skill will enable life long success.
So, How Can We Teach Risk Taking?
A great time to work on risk taking is when making predictions during stories. I often ask a child, “What do you think will happen next?”. When I get the quizzical, apprehensive look, I explain that I don’t know either but that we can take a guess. We talk about, “Why do you predict that?” As long as the guess is based upon something, it can’t be wrong. Especially with fiction books, acceptable answers can be impossible or illogical (like a dog dancing or a mouse turning into a car). These types of risks are educated guesses, based upon something within the story.
Incorporating “challenges” into my sessions is another way that I teach risk taking. While I generally work in the zone of success for children (a place that is a little bit of a stretch but not outside of their capabilities), these challenges are situations which will likely be more difficult for the child. I always wait to do this until after the child seems comfortable with me and we have formed a relationship. Then, on occasion, when working on a task, whether it be listening, speech or language, I set up the “challenge”. I take the task to the next level, explaining, ” I think it’s time for a challenge, this is something I do with older children, but I want to try with you. It may be difficult, but let’s go for it. If it’s too hard, we will stop. Are you ready for the challenge?” For example, if working on an auditory memory task, I might increase the number of items in the list by a few or might challenge the child by adding a delay before they can repeat. When working on a listening in noise activity, I might turn the noise all the way up. The idea here is for the child to learn that sometimes in life we are faced with things that are really difficult, but it’s good to take a risk. When the challenge is too difficult, I always praise the child for trying something so hard, remind them that it’s something I usually do with older children, and explain we will keep working towards it. Then we take steps to get there therapeutically and when the child is successful, I remind them of the time we did it as a “challenge”. This always gives the child a great feeling of pride. Remember, “success breeds success”.
Another way to incorporate risk taking into everyday life is making predictions with your child throughout the day. You can predict which elevator is going to come first in a bank of elevators. How many seconds will it be until the light will turn green? How many inches of snow will actually fall? How many cookies are in the jar? The importance of these activities is teaching your child that know one knows and it is just a guess. In the end you might be right and you might be wrong, but the fun is in taking a guess.
The child who understands that it’s okay to be wrong and for things to be difficult, is one who takes risks, ultimately leading to lifelong success. Today’s entrepreneurs are those who took a risk to try something new.