Monday, January 12, 2009

Push Me Pull You

How do you decide what skills to push your child to master and which skills can take a back seat?

When I first adopted Ashley, she was 2 years old and I was new to the world of special needs parenting. I felt I had to push on everything. Ashley at 2 years old had never had early intervention services, never had physical or occupational therapy, never had a parent who encouraged her to reach beyond herself. So, my initial approach was to flood her with experiences.

We had speech therapy twice a week, occupational/feeding therapy five days a week, and vision services three times a week. All that was in addition to what I worked on with her at home, and believe me, I tried to make everything into a learning experience. Then one day, my son, Chip, then seven years old, told me while I was practicing ABC’s with Ashley’s Spaghettio’s during feeding therapy that not EVERYTHING had to be a learning experience. That son of mine has always been wise beyond his years…

As Ashley grew, I have backed off a little – at first, very very little, but still I always kept what Chip had said in the back of my mind. I learned to relax more. I learned that Ashley could work on skills just by having fun. I learned that sometimes she just needs to do nothing. And I think the result is that Ashley is much more well-rounded than some of her equally severely disabled peers.

Believe me, I still work very hard to help her with skill development. She still has a lot to catch up on, and probably always will. But we also have fun – we do things just for the sake of doing them, not because she will have the opportunity to learn. I’m letting her school district, her teachers and aides take more of the responsibility for her education, while I make my major responsibility parenting.

Ashley is a lovely and unique child, and I have made the decision to celebrate that uniqueness. The last thing I want to do is make her feel that she always has to do better and do more. She is doing the absolute best job of just being herself, and I couldn’t ask for anything more.

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