Children are without a doubt considered to be the most vulnerable in many aspects, more specifically with their emotions. They carry their hearts on their sleeves, and speak their minds not realizing how words can hurt another person. For the children with cognitive disabilities, aka learning disabilities, their emotions are heightened to another level compared to their peers, thus putting their own mental health to the forefront and making them feel as though they are being misunderstood and unable to relate to anyone else.
How can we as educators and parents help the children have a stronger stance when it comes to their mental health? We can check in on them, sure. But what type of methods are beneficial to strengthening their mental health?
Modeling healthy behavior - Modeling healthy behavior is essential when it comes to strengthening a child's mental health. Modeling actions and emotions such as forgiveness will show that there is nothing wrong with forgiving someone if the action was merely accidental, an example of this is if their sibling accidentally broke their toy and attempted to fix it but to no avail. Showing the child that it is okay to be upset about their toy being broken, while at the same time it is important to realize that the breakage of the toy was an accident, therefor acknowledging the situation and forgiving the sibling is just as important to the sibling as it is to themselves.
Limiting electronic time - We live in a society where a percentage of our lives are spent on our electronic devices where we scroll through social media newsfeed, or even watching random videos. While there are a lot of good things to come out of the internet, it is important to take a break from the electronics. In a study it showed that nearly 95% of preschoolers have been found to exceed the daily recommendation of one hour on electronics. It is very well known that electronics have a tendency to cause a lot of mental health issues for our mental health, and having children on electronics for too long can cause their own mental health to deteriorate.
Surround them with healthy adults - Having them grow up in a toxic environment is a recipe for disaster. Is there someone that is in proximity to the family or to the staff of the school that is toxic and detrimental to their mental health? Do they cause a lot of issues such as throwing objects or yelling all the time? If this is the case, it is crucial to get yourselves and the child out of the situation.
Being consistent - One of the most fundamental obligations for a child on the spectrum is having someone who is consistent in their life, they want someone who is going to follow through with whatever has been promised. If this is not being done then they are more than likely going to react in a particular manner that you might not be prepared for. If you promise something, it is wise to be consistent with it and follow through with the promise you have stated to them.
Actively listen - As adults we are constantly chitchatting with our loved ones in hopes of getting advice, however, there are moments where the ones we are chatting with chime in with their own advice before fully understanding the situation at hand, and while we get irritated with that we are unaware of how to approach that. When it comes to children, especially those with cognitive disabilities they are going to be visibly upset and will want you to stop talking because they were not done with explaining to you. It is best to keep quiet, listen intently, and make notes inside your mind so you can help them in the best way possible. Do NOT interrupt them when they are talking, it feels as though they are being invalidated.