While preparing for the birth of our children, a parent naturally daydreams about what their child will look like, whether they will look like Mom or Dad, be a boy or girl, and to a degree express occasional concern as to whether the child will be healthy and typically abled. The parent will daydream about days spent on the baseball diamond or fishing with their future son or dance classes and manicures with their future daughter. Heck, parents may even express in wonderment that they may be having the future president.
If a child is born with no obvious visible signs of developmental delay, the parents will continue to daydream about what their child will become as they grow. Eventually, developmental or emotional delays that were brushed off as quirky personalities, shyness, cautious etc. develop into signs that a parent can no longer ignore. Eventually as the child grows a parent realizes how far they are behind their peers,and the cautious child who was taking their time learning to walk has motor skill delays, the shy non speaking child has speech delays, the quirky child actually has social adjustment and neurological delays.
This realization takes time to process. Parents have hopes and dreams that were shattered. The child they imagined is not the child they have. Parents mourn the child who they imagined theirs would be. I will emphasize that at this point, accepting that your child is not who you imagined is who HE or SHE is intended to be. They are their own person. Each an every child can and does learn and develop. Their development may not be on our timetable or at the level that we parents want them to perform at. The level of development and the amount there of will occur according to the child’s timetable and limits NOT the parents.
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.
We cannot wrap our children up in bubble wrap for the rest of their lives. Children learn through struggles and challenges. as much as they learn from ultimate success. 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 : Please stop by my site at Amazon Books and check out my published books on autism aspergers special needs and more http://tinyurl.com/kdspqy9
– Mari Nosal M.Ed., CECE