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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 7 year old boy who is very distracted, often impulsive and sometimes socially awkward. I feel blessed (on most days) because God has entrusted me with raising and nurturing this little growing genius. But lately I’ve been so overwhelmed with work that I haven’t had much time to catch my breath and fully enjoy my son. However, during the winter break, I had the opportunity to slow down and be more present and interact with him.
Watching my son fill his mornings with self-directed learning activities, I am in awe of his creativity, ingenuity, and sheer brilliance. If you’re raising a child who is extremely distracted, here’s what I’ve seen that might help you.
1) He built a LEGO fire temple and dragon made of over 500 small pieces. He was busy all day yesterday, except for going to the toilet and eating, and never rested for a moment. I had to try to get him to take a break to eat. He works from around 10am until 7pm (this is a kid the school system says can’t concentrate).
2.) Today’s plan is to go to the park and try out his new scooter. Instead, he wants to stay home and make his own board games out of construction paper, crayons, masking tape, pipe cleaner, and toothpicks. He also made dice, movable pieces and wrote simple instructions for the game. Now he’s naming his game King’s Castle. The object of the game is to roll the dice and move your pieces until you reach the castle. His play involves: simple math skills, basic literacy (reading and writing instructions), attention and concentration (this comes from a child whose former teacher concluded that my son was unable to read or writing).
So, parents of children with special needs, I implore you to look beyond labels and realize that every child has the capacity to learn. In no way am I saying that you should deny your child special needs. What I’m saying is, invest as much in developing his strengths as you do in addressing your child’s challenges. Because sometimes it’s just a matter of discovering how your child learns best to spark his academic progress.
So here are 3 major lies that parents of special needs children mistakenly believe.
Lie #1.) Your kids are unteachable
This is a lie from the depths of hell. I am using such a graphic description to give you an idea of how emotionally, mentally and spiritually dangerous this lie is to your child’s academic development and social well-being. Of course, your child can be taught, but you must unlock the key so that your child can not only learn, but move in the world. Is he mostly visual? Mainly auditory? Or is it mostly kinesthetic? Always remember that there was a time in our history when Helen Keller was considered unteachable or unreachable…she proved the world wrong. Make sure you take the time to unlock the keys to how your child learns and moves in the world.
Lie #2) Your child is incapable of concentrating
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 in motion and gets easily distracted. He was like three kids rolled into one. I used to get angry a lot because I asked him to sit still, not wriggle, not rock from side to side, and sit on his ass without disturbing. In fact, my expectations of him didn’t align with his natural personality. Honestly, my constant critique of things he couldn’t control without tools and help didn’t help him build his self-confidence and academic self-esteem. Watching my son spend the whole day putting together his LEGO Fire Temple and Dragons and making his board games reminds me that he does have the ability to do what he loves and when he has the proper tools to assist him in concentrating. Your child does have the ability to focus, to find out what he really enjoys, and help him hone that skill so he can start transferring it to his schoolwork.
Lie #3) You can’t take your kids anywhere
One of the things I learned early on with my son is that sometimes large groups of people and a lot of noise can have a crazy effect on him. He seemed to get more excited when he was in a crowd, so I wrongly thought I couldn’t take him anywhere for fear he would misbehave and embarrass me or get myself in trouble. In fact, he was so hyperactive on class trips that his former teacher made a plan that he would not be allowed on class trips unless I accompanied him or provided a chaperone to accompany him in person. So I spent a lot of time working with the school to keep him from crossing the line and to understand how to follow instructions from start to finish. Sometimes things go well. Other times they don’t. This led me to mistakenly avoid outings with my son. I have now learned to prepare him for going outside by reinforcing the rules, asking him to draw a picture or write a few words about why he thinks it is important to follow the rules related to going out, I ask him to bring something to do or play with if Where appropriate, and if necessary, I would have told the landlord ahead of time so he/she knew not to take it to heart if we had to leave early. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can’t take your child with special needs anywhere. Instead, get yourself ready, your kids ready, and, where appropriate, the hosts.
Finally, when it comes to your child with special needs, look beyond the labels and look at the gifts in your child. Your child is teachable. Your child can focus…even if it’s just a little bit. You should be proud to have brought your child into this world.
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