Over the course of about 20 years we have seen many, many children with varying development challenges and disorders. Our interventions have played a significant role in moving both society and the participants toward a dignified experience of life. Since the origins of our Adapted Gym Program (AGP) in 2002, we have been humbled by the efforts of parents and families with their children. We have been honoured to share their long-term process with us. In these 3 part blogs, we would like to share a few "sage" pieces of wisdom that has been gathered over these years.
Wisdom PT2: Be open to surprises…
Have you ever noticed how “tense” you feel with your special needs child(ren) at times?
Parents of children with ASD or other diagnosis score much higher on levels of stress than all other groups of parents. Of course, you probably do not need me to tell you that.
The point is, when we are in stress, particularly when we are approaching ‘brown out’ or ‘burn out’ (the point where fatigue and intolerance takes over), we see things through a limited lens. Imagine if you had glasses that were fogged and you were trying to view something, it would be difficult to see the details. Well, its similar to that. Its very difficult to absorb details or see objectively when stress is heightened.
What are the causes of this stress?
Two main themes here:1. Fear of embarrassment
Can be felt mainly in a public setting where your son or daughter exhibits “less than acceptable behaviours”. These challenges can occur when you least expect it or when you do expect it and were hoping for more control and restraint. Both of these enhance your feelings of fear, and then anger.2. Fear of the future
Can be felt while you are alone or with your child or watching your child be engaged in a therapy. The very thought is on your mind constantly – am I doing enough, what if this does not work, how long will this take, how will he be when she/he’s 16yrs old ?? etc…
With all of the years and hours of our work with various ages it has shown us; to be open to surprises Even after seeing over 1000 children and adults, we have to remember this! As a parent with one or more children, this is a wisdom that can really make the difference in overall successes. For example of a surprise, a child at age 8 years old starting in his AGP process. So much fear exhibited by crying, tantrums, arms waving and escapes. After about 6 months of working together this same child no longer cries, looks into your face, shows excited expressions and is able to carry out 2-3 tasks without re-direction! Who would have thought it. Because we believed in our intent and process, applied the caring brain-based principles and carried on. That is our view of it. But the real truth is, we believed the child was capable, and the surprises occurred!
Here are Four principles that will help you with being open to surprises, even under stress:1. Talk to someone who has seen many from young to adult and ask “does it get better” and see where the conversation goes.
2. Remember this: When something is starting to “work” (loosely defined), do more of it (ie more sessions or hours etc), not try more things.
3. Fundamentally, child development will occur on its own AND with interventions at the same time. If no interventions, then “on its own” is not enough for those with special needs.
4. Acknowledge the surprises! Improvement and growth are fundamental to every human, just look for smaller ones and celebrate them. If you cannot see them, that’s ok, ask someone else what they see.