It's not always about what your student's need to improve. Make sure to find ways for them to see how valuable they are as they right here, right now.
If you are a special educator or in a related field, you are responsible-heck, you are probably legally bound to make sure your students are moving forward. You see your students where they are at and are teaching them to improve in their areas of need.
However, I've found that sometimes in the over-zealousness to help students, and make progress on their objectives and goals, there is indirectly an over-focus on the fact they are not where they should be yet. This is turn can take a toll on a child's esteem. And self-esteem is something we really need to protect.
A 2022 study in the Journal of American Psychologist reported people with high self-esteem generally have more success at school and work, better social relationships, improved mental and physical health, and less anti-social behavior. These benefits last from adolescence through old age.
An exercise I like to do with my students in my Social Skills groups is have them brainstorm about what the qualities of a leader or a good friend are. They will come up with positive adjectives like "curious," "kind," or "hard working."
Have the kids then write at least one down on a piece of paper (or you write it for them) and get up tape it to a board.
Always incorporate movement in your groups even if it's just getting up to tape things.
Then ask the students to read the words and think about themselves. Pose the question, "Which of those words, describes you?"
Have them get up again put their initials on the paper of the word(s) that they think they choose.
This act of coming up and physically putting their initials down next to the word is different than just someone telling them how great they are. This is them really taking a minute to self-validate. To get them to run through past behavior or internal feelings and be honest about their positive traits.
If you are interested in learning more about how to create and run your own fun and effective Social Skills Groups, my online learning opportunity, Social Skills Groups for 21st Century Kids, may be right for you.