I need to warn you, I am about to go on a rant and it is not at you but more at myself. David started a new course and had to go into the bathroom himself, all wheelchair assessable and I have seen how the wheelchair fits in. However, every time David has ever gone to the bathroom, I or a helper have always stood outside waiting for him.
The new helper last week didn’t know this and correctly assumed that David could go to the bathroom himself and come back to class. Now David is 26 and this is the first time he had to go back himself without somebody standing there. I wasn’t shocked that David could do this, but I did realise that I was not empowering David by standing outside the bathroom for all these years.
David went out for another one of his dates with a “girlfriend” (I am not able!). David had to go to the bathroom beforehand, he knew where it was and it was in my view, so I said OK, head off yourself and I’ll be here waiting for you and he did and came back out and over to me. Well, you should have seen the proud look on his face as he said, “you see I can do it on my own” he was proud as punch. He then went over for his date and I left them alone for 30-minutes while I went to a few shops. This again is a first for me as my mind keeps playing tricks on me telling me something going to go wrong, and I won’t be there for him.
I now have to ask myself what else am I doing for him that he could do on his own. When I thought about it there is a lot more David could do for himself. But we as parents of children with different abilities feel that we should help our children more, they need more help in a lot of areas, but what could they do if they were left to try?
I would love you to look at a day in your child’s life, make notes and see really what could be done differently to make your child more independent. You may think that your child is too young to start this, and you still actually love getting them ready in the morning or at night but really are you doing your child an injustice?
So just for one day make a list of what you think with a little bit of gentle encouragement and lots of patience, your child can do for themselves. They may surprise you. Now you may not want to bring this into your child’s everyday life, to begin with when the house is already very busy and some of our children don’t work with time very well, so I suggest starting at the weekend.
Let me give you an example: it’s probably easier for your child to undress than to dress so let’s look at this. Can your child take off their school uniform or maybe your child can just take off his/her jumper, it might take an extra 10 minutes for your child to do this but let them it will get faster every time. Ok buttons may be a problem, give them the time to try and do this, however, I would suggest helping out before your child (not you) gets frustrated at the challenge. Does your child know where their pyjamas are? Can they hand them to you? This is an achievement for some children, and could they put it back in the same place in the morning? If your child has the ability to do this, encourage your child as much as possible.
Another example would be – Breakfast – if like me you still butter your 26-year-old’s toast!! As I said, I am ranting at myself. And you know he can at least do some of it himself.
Could you use a more spreadable butter to make it a little easier for your child? It’s an achievement for him to do. However, do I let him? Oh no, it’s faster, easier if I do it, is that helping?
Even if a task is much too big like putting on a jacket, why not break down the task, you put on one sleeve for your child (in David’s case it’s his left hand first as that is affected by C.P) and then David can put on the rest of his jacket himself. I then may start the zip but he does the rest and he is getting better and better every day at this.
All these little achievements mean so much to our children and I know how we as parents are so proud of each achievement that other parents take for granted.