This post was originally published on the SAIconnections blog page. You can read the original here.
“I’m tired of my daughter’s behavior. Every morning she takes 2 hours to get ready. She doesn’t like school at all. I don’t think she learns anything there.
In fact, I can teach her better.” Said a tired looking mother of a 16 year old.
“If you and your daughter are unhappy why do you continue to send her to the same school? I replied.
It’s close to my home. At least she passes her time. But I’m not happy with the way things are. I tried to talk to the principal and teachers, but nothing changed.” She responded.
I’ve heard these dissatisfied school conversations, quite a few times from parents. It’s time to address the issue.
As parents of children on the spectrum, you have gut instincts about what’s working with your child and what isn’t.
I have a question for you.
If something’s not working (and you’ve tried your best to resolve it with the school) why don’t you change the situation?
I can see you raising your eyebrows questioningly.
Yes, I hear all your questions.
What will my child do if he doesn’t go to school?
How will she ever learn anything?
I know he’s very intelligent. I want him to finish his 10th grade.
At least she’s with others and will learn to cope with them.
I understand. I hear you. I’d like to share a different perspective.
You have a choice.
- Continue with what’s not working- because it lies in your comfort zone.
- Change the situation to bring about a positive change that suits you.
This involves stepping out of your comfort zone. The former is easy. It’s easy to stay in your comfort zone. You’re used to it.
It’s odd but we tolerate sub standard teaching for our children, when we should actually be standing up for them. We’re slowly getting used to the discomfort. We prefer to continue in situations that don’t suit us, to maintain status quo. It’s easier than making a change, because change is uncomfortable and difficult in the beginning.
Take a moment to reflect. You can make the leap. It’s never too late.
Moving out of your comfort zone requires asking your self some tough questions.
1 – Is my child learning or am I just filling his/her day with things to do?
Evaluate your child’s day at school. Set up meetings with teachers.
Does the teaching child suit you? Would you like to be more involved at school? Are they willing to take your input? Is your child generalizing what he/she learns in the classroom?
Delve deep into your own heart. What do you want for your child?
2 – What obstacle is my child facing?
The obstacle will show you the way. It is not something to be avoided.
I recently observed an adult at SAI Connections. He had become habituated to running out of school and sitting on the parapet outside. On further questioning, I learned he did not enjoy transitions and during every period change, he would run out. To avoid this, teachers brought his work to one particular table he sat at. It was unhealthy. I decided to be firm and set limits. I don’t mean forcefully holding him down. I mean developing an inner resolve and toughness which the student recognizes and therefore, regulates himself.
I rumbled with this issue over a week.
Over a period of a week, he learned he couldn’t leave. After a couple of days, not only did he join in, but he became a lot more regulated. Also, the teachers and his mother were informed to set the same kinds of limits. And follow through with their objectives. Luckily, every body worked consistently and the running issue improved drastically.
The young man now regulates himself well in other areas too. He controls himself while eating. Earlier he couldn’t stop himself from eating. His mother reports he is calmer at home and engages in a variety of activities.
Welcome obstacles. More importantly, confront them.
They will show you the way.
When you encounter a wall, you should tell yourself, “Since there is a wall here, a wide open expanse must lie on the other side.” Rather than becoming discouraged, know that encountering a wall is proof of the progress that you have made so far. – Dr. Daisaku Ikeda
3 – Do I doubt my own capability?
Nobody knows the child better than the mother. I rely on a mother’s judgment. However, parents doubt their own capabilities and rely more on specialists.
Yes, by all means, learn from specialists. Specialists also love to empower parents, for they know that at the end of the day, the child goes home. Learn to establish a connection with your own child. Become the primary guide in his/her life.
This is what my friend, Lori Shayew says,
“Parents have therapists come in their house and tell them what to do. They give their power away. Parents need to focus on healing and empowering themselves. They must shift their beliefs about autism. Once the parent knows who they are the child will respond.”
4 – Am I consistent in working with my child?
Consistency pays compound interest! Spend quality time engaging with your child, each and every day and see the benefits building.
One of the families I work with, has been consulting with me on the RDI Program for the past 10 years. This is what the father says about consistently putting in effort.
RDI is not a treatment but an intervention. As they say, it’s a marathon and not a sprint. It takes time, but positive results are there for sure.
RDI is a way of life directed towards having an emotional connect with the child and improving his/her dynamic thinking as opposed to helping the child do some activities here and there. It helps in improving the life of the family. It facilitates dynamic intelligence.
It builds a relationship with the child. Consistent effort helps in getting positive results.
– Mr. Ranganathan (Prasad’s father)
I ask parents to put in 30- 45 minutes every day, preferably at the same time. After the initial discomfort, this becomes a way of life. The benefits are manifold. You will become empowered. You will have a meaningful relationship with your child.
5 – Do I say ‘No’ often enough?
Just because everyone seems to be doing a particular therapy, doesn’t mean you have to do it. If you feel it’s not going to benefit your child, don’t do it. Study your options, see what suits you and your family. Learn to discriminate, discern and make decisions.
6 – Do I take good care of myself?
This should have actually been question 1. You need to be in a good space physically, mentally and emotionally, to take care of your child. I have a morning routine I follow religiously. I’m up by 6 am to chant and then write. This is followed by a Yoga session (3 days a week). It has worked wonders for me.
What do you do for yourself? Do you have ‘me time?’
Staying in your comfort zone may be easy. But you can grow only when you step out of your comfort zone. Widen your own horizons and trust yourself. Your child will appreciate you for it. You’ll be glad with your decision.
Fret not where the road will take you. Instead concentrate on the first step. That’s the hardest part and that’s what you’re responsible for. Once you take the step let everything do what it naturally does and the rest will follow. Do not go with the flow. Be the flow.
– Elif Shafak, The Forty Rules of Love