Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Most Important Lesson- Re: “Special” Children

(see first today's earlier post)
It is extremely important that we convey a message of love to our children with special needs. For them, the need is even greater. Why?
1. We tend to push them to learn new things; they may interpret failure to learn something as an inhibiter to our love.
2. People on the street stare at them, not always kindly. This may make them feel unlovable.
3. People may gush and say platitudes, or demean the ability of our child. Almost all kids with special needs will eventually come to realize that this is also a demeaning of their worth.
So our children are very vulnerable. What can we do to show them our love?
1. Explain to them what their disability is, and what its effect are. This is an ongoing process of several years in some cases. Be sure to not sound negative about the condition, as it is a part and parcel of their existence. If their disability is visible, explain that they will have to learn to deal with staring. (You can help them learn to deal with this.)

(When Ricki was small, I made a book about children with disabilities, and the “aids” that each person needs. The hard of hearing person needs a hearing aid; the person with CP needs leg braces, etc. On of the disabilities was Down syndrome, with the picture of a friend’s child, not of Ricki. I said that this girl, who had trouble learning, used a computer (in the meantime) to write. Later on I told her that she also has Down syndrome, and what that meant to her life at that time. (On later occasions I have updated that “what it means to you now” part of the conversation. Once when she was talking about getting married, I shared with her the knowledge that Down syndrome will make finding a spouse harder. –See “We Plan and They Plan", November 21st’s blog)

The main point here is to show that the disability is something they deal with, but not them. And that it does not affect your love for them.

2. Yes, you can push your child to learn things. But it has to be fun, and with love. Try to make the study connected to things that he enjoys.
Its OK to sometimes say:
- “I see you’re tired. We’ll try again tomorrow.”
- “I see you didn’t learn this yet. Don’t worry, you tried, and that’s enough.”
- “I really see that you are trying hard. But that’s enough for today.”
(With Ricki we had a phrase: “We try a bit, and try each day, and in the end we will succeed.”)
Above all, study time is not a time for anger. And if he isn’t trying? See the next point.

3. When the child misbehaves, doesn’t try, etc. etc, consider using POSITIVE BEHAVIORAL SUPPORT., not punishments. For those unfamiliar with PBS, I recommend highly the book: Parenting with Positive Behavior Support, published by Brookes
(see: )

4. Insist that others speak to your child, not through you, and that they address him by his name, or otherwise appropriately (and not, “sweetie”)


Childlife said...

Great post -- thank you for sharing the link. I especially loved your tip #4 -- I think that is so important for all kids. We always make a point of insisting that doctors spend the first part of the appointment talking directly to our children... they're the patient after all. :)

Excellent post!

~Michelle @ 5MFSN

Trish @ Another Piece of the Puzzle said...

This is a great post, so empowering to parents of things they can do to make a difference in their child's self-esteem.

Thanks for the book recommendation!