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Don't Stop Believing

Written by Carey Handley

Iam the mother of a child with Special Needs, notice that I used the phrase "child with Special Needs" rather than a "Special Needs child." It should always be 'person-first' because your child is not defined by their differences. They are children who happen to have 'disabilities' or 'differences' which is a much kinder way to look at it.

I know how easy it is to focus on the disability rather than the ability. Every child is special and has abilities in their own way. It's all in how you look at it. By focusing on the ability, you are saying that you will encourage the strengths while supporting the areas of relative weakness. There is potential. Celebrate the victories, no matter how small they might seem to outsiders, they are major victories for your child.

When my daughter was 3, I took her to McDonald's and let her play in the play area. I followed her around and watched how she navigated through the various parts of the area. When it came to the structure the kids climbed to get a vantage point near the ceiling, I tried to get my daughter to climb up the mats to get to the next level. Hand-over-hand, I encouraged her to try and climb but she was not having any of that. She was not ready to attempt the climb.

A few months down the road and I was still encouraging her to climb and still she would get atop the first mat but wouldn't go any further. We later found out that she had gravitational insecurity of the vestibular system which basically meant that she had trouble reconciling what would happen to her when her body moved through space (such as leaving the floor and climbing up). She was desperately afraid of falling.

On one of her play dates with friends from nursery school, my back was turned to her and one of the other mothers told me to look behind me. I looked up to find my daughter at the top of the play structure. She had decided it was time. It had to be in her time rather than mine. She never looked back once she had accomplished this. To parents of typically developing children, it might have seemed to be a small victory. To us it was major. And, we celebrated.

It takes our children longer to advance perhaps, but the victories are there. You just have to wait and watch and encourage. Keep looking, keep encouraging, be patient. And, celebrate each time they triumph!

Helpful Hint:When working with children with autism or have trouble focusing, simply put a solid piece of paper directly behind the laces being tied. This helps the child focus on the task at hand and not get distracted by the rest of the shoe.

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