You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘special needs’ tag.

“Mom, I can’t find my swimsuit!”

“Bummer. What are you going to do?”

Little exchanges like this are true Love and Logic moments. Don’t take on the kid’s problem, Love and Logic tells us. Turn it back to your kid with the simple little “What are you going to do?” question.

Is this applicable to special needs kids? You bet your flappy hands it is — perhaps more so even than typical ones. Special needs kids really need a focus on thinking for themselves, handling their own challenges, and doing things without reminders. Is Love and Logic harder for parents of special needs kids? I believe it is. It is super easy for us to be overprotective of our kids, to want to set things up to be a success for them. To protect them from not experiencing the consequences of their disability.

Love and Logic made such a difference in my life as a parent that I got trained to be a presenter. A few times a year now, I co-teach a six-week series with my friend, Ellen. This is one of the many gifts brought to me by autism. Standing up there and being really authentic about our own struggles helps the parents share what’s going on in their lives. Parents don’t attend these classes because their family lives are working: we might get parents who are having all-out arguments daily with their kids, or forcing kids into massive rebellions with their parenting style, or who are about to just plain give up on their kids. It’s sobering. And humbling. And amazing to watch how the simple techniques of Love and Logic can make such a difference.

A huge part of Love and Logic is the concept of empathy. Not sympathy, where you’re feeling sorry for your kid (and often want to avoid or fix the pain)– but empathy, where you go down the rabbit hole and feel with your kid. Let’s say, for example, that we make it very clear that we’ll take our kid to the ballgame if his/her room is clean by noon.

No reminders from the parent once the expectation is clear.

Noon comes and — you guessed it — the room is still a mess. Before we deliver a consequence, we first express genuine empathy: “Oh, this is so sad. We can’t go to the ballgame.”

If the kid is anything like my Joseph, begging begins. “Oh please, Mom. I’ll do it now, fast! I really will! Here I go!”

“Oh honey, I know this meant a lot to you, but what did I say?”

Then come the tears. This is where I will hug my son warmly and tell him how much I love him, how I’m sure he’ll do better next time. And that, as they say, is that.

Such a powerful little lesson: If we don’t meet our expectations, there are consequences. Is this an understanding that will be meaningful for a lifetime? Of course. Do we have to teach it a million different ways? Of course. Do we have to teach it five million different ways if we have a special needs kid? That’s been my experience.
Beyond that wonderful lesson, there is also the understanding that, not only does Mom mean what she says, but she is also on her kid’s side. Thanks to empathy, parent and son are side by side, looking out at the kid’s behavior and learning from it. Oftentimes these experiences bring a new closeness – as opposed to the anger, resentment and mile-wide divide between kid and parent that can result when consequences are delivered differently.

I could go on but I won’t…for now. Suffice it to say that, of all the techniques and interventions we’ve used with Joseph, Love and Logic stands high on the mountaintop as one of the most powerful. If you haven’t looked into it, I suggest you do!

 

 

Advertisements

I was an est-hole early in life. My dad, who was a seeker back when seeker-dom was not trendy, entered me in the est training when I was 11 years old. While studying self-growth at a young age had its good points and bad points, one of the things I learned there has recently become relevant in my relationship with Joseph.

It’s the but-and difference.

I might say, for instance, that I’d like to be with my husband but I want alone time. In this case, one point negates the other. I can’t be with Blue Eyes because I’m choosing to be alone instead.

In other words, it’s either-or. Either I’m with Blue Eyes or I’m alone.

On the other hand, I could say that I’d like to be with my husband and I want alone time. This doesn’t kill off one option in favor of another; rather it holds both options as happening in the realm of possibility.

This is not either-or; this is both-and. I get to be with Blue Eyes and I get alone time.

Enter Joseph. It has recently occurred to me what a great kid he is. He woke up around 6:30 the other morning and, when I came in to rouse him at 7, he was busy with blocks. “I’m building, Mom! See my school? This is room 3.” Yesterday I came to pick him up from school. We started walking toward the car when Joseph said, “Hey! Where’s my hug?” and gave me a big embrace. Warms the heart, that one. 😉

He’s a great kid, he really is. Funny and smart and goofy and loving. It used to be that all this was negated, in my mind, by the autism diagnosis. He converses pretty well, but he flaps his hands. He gets along in a mainstream classroom, but he chews.

And the overall perspective: He’s a great kid, but he has autism.

Truly, this is how I’ve viewed my son. Everything else he is got cancelled out because of autism. Ugh. If I was into guilt, I could think about how my limited outlook has shaped my child, but I’ll try not to go there.

Here’s my new point of view:

Joseph is a great kid. And he has autism.

Yes, both these things are in the realm of possibility. They can, and are, happening concurrently. I have a really great kid who also has autism.

I love this! It’s a subtle shift, but often those subtle shifts are the ones that shape our subconscious and the very way we see, and interact with, the world. If the Universe is always and only ready, then my seeing Joseph differently  allows the Universe to give me the evidence I am now looking for.

And I do see it. More and more I see this amazing child who I get to hang out with.

All my life I’ve been attracted to people who are different. Scheming to sit next to the tiny midget on the bus so that I could strike up a conversation with her. Bringing home a transient so that I could get a glimpse of his life. Reading anything I could find about people who are blind. Covertly watching deaf people converse. Traveling to foreign lands to soak in other cultures. Making friends with people from other countries. Marrying an alien (Blue Eye’s official legal title).

In my mind, different is good. Different is interesting. Different offers us interesting new perspectives on life.

Except for my own child. His difference has been a bad thing, a disastrous thing. Something that’s devastated our lives.

Byron Katie would ask, Who would you be without that thought?

Peaceful. Happy. Content.

I will strive always to help Joseph improve himself, just as I strive to improve myself. But in life, if we are wise, we learn to foster our strengths and manage our weaknesses. This is what I do, and this is what I will endeavor to help him do.

It’s not all over because my kid has autism.

I have a great kid, and he has autism.

Both. And.

When your kid gets an early diagnosis of autism, one of the questions that looms in front of you — that wakes you up at night and ruins your meditations and taunts you for never doing enough to “fix” your kid — is this:

Can my kid make it in a mainstream classroom?

Making it in a mainstream class stands for so much: normality first and foremost, and functionality, and competence, and capability — to say the least. There is a lot riding on making it in a mainstream classroom.

But, having been in mainstream kindergarten for three days now, it looks like it really stands for a lot of other things. Things like following directions, sitting still, watching the teacher, raising hands, answering questions, working on your own, working with others, and speaking only when spoken to.

I’m going to hazard a guess that, eventually, Joseph will be able to do most or all of these things. In only a few days he is already getting the routine, learning to raise his hand and pay more attention to the teacher. The aid stands over him and works with him constantly, and he is learning a lot from her.

So I’m supposed to feel happy — aren’t I? It’s kindergarten. It’s not just the ideas about the thing, but the thing itself. And it looks like Joseph will be okay at it.

But here’s one other thing:

One of the yamas that yoga discusses is ahimsa, which translates into English as nonviolence. The obvious practice of ahimsa is not killing, hurting or maiming other creatures. But ahimsa can take place on very subtle levels —  including the practice of not harming another person’s enthusiasm.

And as I watch the teacher and the aid shushing the kids yet again, or telling a kid (usually a boy) to sit back down, or to keep their eyes on their paper, or to put the pencil down and wait, or to scoot up to the table, or whatever, I feel, well, torn.

I mean, of course the kids need to learn their manners and discipline and the art of listening. But “eyes on the teacher” doesn’t mean they’re actually watching. And “pencils down” when they’re quietly doing something fun and creative just seems wrong. When did we get so controlling and conformist?

There is another special needs kid in the room. She has been told what to do so much that you can see she just wants to explode. She is just barely holding it in. Some of the kids — boys, in particular — look so bored. Is this Joseph’s eventual fate: suppression and boredom? Is this what we’ve worked so hard for him to do?

It’s interesting to see the difference between what RDI teaches (“Oops! You forgot something!”) and what they do at school (“Remember to push your chair in!”). RDI wants the kids to observe, to reference, to think for themselves. The school? They want the kids to push their chairs in.

Certainly Joseph can learn to follow orders and to do things “right.” That’s not usually a high-functioning autistic kid’s problem. Can they — will they — slow down and let him figure something out by himself? Can they — will they — encourage him to pretend? Can they — will they — scaffold him during recess, when he doesn’t know how to interact with the other kids?

I don’t want a teacher who just controls and instructs. I want a teacher to fall in love with my kid’s potential.

I’m being harsh. I’m being Mother Bear, up on my hind legs, feeling protective of my cub.

Let’s start again: Joseph is in kindergarten. He likes it! He told me today that he’s got a new girl he loves (he loved someone at preschool). The other kids seem open to him. What surprises me is that quite a few other kids have special needs, too — though not autism — and he fits in a lot better than I expected. He is adjusting. He is hungry to learn. He keeps bragging about the fact that he’s in kindergarten now.

So the problem lies not with Joseph. It’s me who is having existential angst. And maybe, after a year or two, when Joseph can go without an aid, we can transfer him to one of the more alternative schools around. One that helps his mind to blossom, exercises his body and nourishes his soul.

God willing.

Just now I laid by my son as he fell asleep. I turned to watch him as his eyes closed and his breath evened out to sweet, rhythmic ebbs and flows. I felt such love in my heart for this amazing soul, and deep gratitude for the very difficult but profound journey we’ve had with him.

In some self-growth group I was in — can’t even remember which now — we used to say, “Trust the process.”

That’s it, isn’t it? Trust the process. Trust the journey. Trust God.

Trust.

Not ideas about the thing, but the thing itself applies not only to kindergarten. For me, in my journey, in my life right here and right now, it needs to also be applied to trust.

Not ideas about trust, but trust itself.

*title originally created by the poet Wallace Stevens