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3 Big Fat Awful Lies That Parents of Special Needs Children Mistakenly Believe
I am the mother of a bright and funny, very outgoing, often impulsive, sometimes socially awkward 7-year-old boy. I feel blessed (most days) that God has entrusted me to raise and nurture this little genius in the making. But lately I’ve been so busy with work that I haven’t had much time to catch my breath and fully enjoy my son. However, over winter break I had a chance to slow down and be more present and engaged with him.
As I watch my son fill his mornings with self-directed learning activities, I am in complete awe of his creativity, ingenuity, and sheer brilliance. Here’s what I saw that might work for you if you’re raising a child who is very distracted.
1) He built a Lego fire temple and dragon made of over 500 small pieces. He went all day yesterday and didn’t take a break except to go to the bathroom and eat. And I had to fight to get him to take a break to eat. He worked from about 10am to 7pm (and this is a kid who the school system says can’t concentrate).
2.) The plan was to go to the park today so he could try out his new scooter. Instead, he wanted to stay inside and make his own board game out of construction paper, crayons, masking tape, pipe cleaners and toothpicks. He also made game dice, movable figures and wrote simple instructions. For now, he has named his game King’s Castle. The object of the game is to roll the dice and move the pieces until you reach the castle. His play includes: simple math skills, basic literacy (reading and writing instruction), focus and concentration (and this from a child who is a former teacher, my son can’t read or write at grade level).
Therefore, I encourage parents of children with special needs to look beyond the label and understand that every child is capable of learning. I am by no means saying that you should deny your child’s special needs. I say put as much energy into nurturing his strengths as you do into solving your child’s challenges. Because sometimes you just need to discover how your child learns best in order to boost their academic progress.
So here are the top 3 lies that parents of children with special needs mistakenly believe.
Lie #1.) Your child is not teachable
It is a lie from the pit of hell. I use the following graphic representation to help you understand how emotionally, mentally, and spiritually dangerous these lies can be to your child’s academic growth and social well-being. Sure, your child is teachable, but you have to unlock the key to how your child not only learns, but navigates the world. Is he primarily visual? Mostly hearing? Or mostly kinesthetic? Always remember that there was a time in our history when people thought Helen Keller was unteachable or unattainable…and she proved the world wrong. Be sure to take the time to unlock the key to how your child learns and navigates the world.
Lie #2) Your child doesn’t have the ability to focus
This is another lie believed by parents of children with special needs, especially parents of children with ADHD and Asperger’s syndrome. My son is always on the move and very easily distracted. He is like having three children in one. I used to be so angry because I wanted him to sit still, stop rocking, stop rocking from side to side and sit on his bottom without being disturbed. In fact, my expectations of him didn’t match the way he was naturally made. And to be honest, my constant criticism of things he couldn’t control without tools and help didn’t help his confidence and academic self-esteem. Watching my son spend all day with Lego Fire Temple and Dragon and building his own board game reminded me that he can focus when he’s doing something he enjoys and when he has the tools to helps him. It’s an opportunity for your child to focus, learn what they really enjoy, and help them hone that skill so they can begin to transfer it to their academics.
Lie #3) You can’t take your child anywhere
One of the things I learned early on about my son is that sometimes large groups and loud noises make him anxious. He seemed to get more hyper when he was in a crowd, so I mistakenly believed that I couldn’t take him anywhere for fear that he would misbehave, embarrass me, or cause trouble. In fact, he was so extreme on class trips that his former teacher came up with a plan stating that he would not be allowed to go on class trips unless I accompanied him or provided a chaperone to accompany him personally. So I spent a lot of time working with the school to make sure he didn’t cross the line and understand how to follow the instructions from start to finish. Sometimes things went well. Other times they didn’t. This caused me to mistakenly avoid going out with my son. Now I’ve learned to prepare him for outings by reinforcing the rules, having him draw a picture or write a few sentences about why he thinks it’s important to follow the rules for that outing, I let him take something to do or play with. with if needed and if needed I let the host know ahead of time so he/she knows not to take it personally if we have to leave early. Don’t make sure you can’t take your child with special needs anywhere. Instead, prepare yourself, prepare your child, and if necessary, prepare the host.
In conclusion, when it comes to a child with special needs, look beyond the label and see the gifts in your child. Your child is teachable. Your child can focus… if only in small spurts. And you should be proud to give your child into the world.
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