Our children may have our genes but they are also unique and different in their own ways. How can we better understand our special needs children and their abilities?
We reflect on the following questions:
In my last blog, we discuss Quality World Pictures (William Glasser, 1998) as pictures made up of experiences we want to have, people we want to spend time with, and values we espouse. For a parent, it could be getting through the grocery shopping with no meltdowns. For a child with autism, it could simply be about getting the puzzles right. It is important to be mindful that our Quality World Pictures will be different than our children and we have to take an extra effort to comprehend what is important to them. In trying to understand their Quality World Pictures, we can observe or get feedback from teachers, and therapists about the child. For example, who are the people they enjoy being around with most? What type of activities would be calming? What type of activities in class and at playtime are they most engaged in, and what type of learning style are they most receptive to?
It is tempting to compare amongst peers on how advanced another child may be in their skills and abilities and feel your child is less because he/she is “not there yet”. However it is important to remember that every child learns and process information differently and at a different pace. It is helpful to ask the therapists and teachers, what type of learning works best for your child. With the right learning and therapeutic environment, the child will progress eventually. The way children express feelings may be different from how we expect it. For example, “I love you” could be expressed through articulation, or through giving a hug, or through letting you play with them. Doing things differently does not imply as being lesser. As adults, we cope with anxiety and stressful situations in varied ways. Likewise, children who rock and flap their hands when they are anxious demonstrate their coping skills.
Focusing on a specific outcome that we want only will lead us to neglect the effort the child has put in daily, and instead focus on how much they measure up to our internal expectations. Instead, we focus on GROWTH. Perhaps flapping is a progress from having a meltdown in the grocery store. Perhaps playing with puzzles is an improvised way of saying, “ I need some down time”. A parent of a special needs child shared that seeing her son having accomplished so much from years of therapy and hard work serves as a reminder of the remarkable growth the son has made.
So the next time we think about our children, we ask ourselves, “ What can they do this week that they cannot do last week? What new skills have they acquired? What else can we do to help them be at their best everyday?
William Glasser, Choice Theory: A New Psychology of Personal Freedom (New York, USA: HarperCollins Publisher, 1998)