A recent blog by Shawna Wingert in HuffPost Parents made me think about all the children I see for evaluations, who struggle with so many areas of academic, social and physical performance. Only some of them are on the autism spectrum, as Ms Wingert’s child is. Others have significant learning, language or developmental disabilities, or attention deficits. They struggle to make friends, to understand their schoolwork, to organize tasks. And every day, their parents try to help and support them.
As parents, we all want to increase our children’s awareness of both strengths and weaknesses, as well as their self-confidence. We want them to be proud of what they accomplish, and to keep on trying. When I talk with parents, I make it a point to mention a child’s positive personality traits or areas of strength—the “good things” he or she can do. It was interesting to note that many of the things Ms. Wingert “learned” seemed equally helpful to parents of children with other special needs:
- A lack of sleep makes everything seem worse (true for both parents and children!)
- People can be “really really mean”—or “really really kind” (and we have to help our kids deal with both kinds)
- When you’re feeling discouraged, your child will probably do something that makes all your work seem worthwhile
- Doctors can be a valuable resource, but make sure they’re working on your “team” (as I always say, Parents are the Experts on their Child)
- Your child’s abilities are far more impressive than anyone realizes (yes, I see this all the time when I talk with parents about what a child does outside of school)
- There is always a reason for the behavior (when I observe a child in class, it’s often easy to figure this one out and help parents understand)
- Choose to work on one thing at a time until it’s mastered (you can make your list on the white board, but don’t try to work on more than 1-3 skills at a time, or you’ll both get exhausted)
I was touched by how “open” and attentive this mom seemed, even when her child’s behavior was a puzzle. She seemed to understand that by noticing little things, she could smooth the road and help her son be more successful. It’s a goal we all want for our children.
The takeaway? I found myself thinking three things:
- every child deserves to be valued for his or her unique personality;
- children need to be taught specific ways to handle their areas of need; and
- (most important) parents should try to greet each day with an “open mind”, so they can “notice the small things” their children do.
By pointing these things out (to yourself and your children), you can help them not only be more successful but to see themselves in this light.
I hope you find these ideas helpful! Enjoy the rest of summer, and as always, please contact me with questions or comments.