I am the mother of a bright and funny highly-distractible, often impulsive, sometimes socially awkward 7 year old boy. I feel blessed (on most days) that God has entrusted me to raise and nurture this little genius in the making. But lately I’ve been so inundated with work that I haven’t had much time to take a breather and fully enjoy my son. However while on winter recess I had the opportunity to slow down and be more present and engaged with him.
Watching my son fill up his mornings with self-led learning activities, I am in total awe of his creativity, ingenuity and sheer brilliance. Here is what I witnessed that might be helpful for you if you are raising a highly-distractible child.
1) He built a Lego Fire Temple and Dragon consisting of over 500 little pieces. He spent the whole day yesterday and would not take a break except to go to the bathroom and eat his meals. And I had to fight to get him to take a break to eat. He worked from about 10am until 7pm (and this is a child who the school system says cannot focus).
2.) Today the plan was to go to the park so he could try out his new scooter. Instead he wanted to stay in and create his own board game out of construction paper, crayons, masking tape, pipe cleaners and toothpicks. He also made dice for the game, movable pieces and wrote up simple instructions. For now he’s named his game The King’s Castle. The goal of the game is to roll the dice and move your pieces until you get to castle. His game involves: simple math skills, basic literacy (reading and writing instructions), focus and concentration (and this from a child who’s former teacher concluded that my son could not read or write on grade level).
So parents of special needs children I implore you to look beyond the label and realize that every child has the capacity to learn. In no way am I saying that you should be in denial of your child’s special needs. What I am saying is put as much energy into nurturing 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 stride.
So here are the 3 major lies that parents of special needs children mistakenly believe.
Lie #1.) Your Child Is Not Teachable
This is a lie from the pit of hell. I am using such a graphic depiction to get you to see how emotionally, mentally and spiritually dangerous this lie can be for the academic growth and social wellness of your child. Of course your child is teachable, but you’ve got to unlock the key to how your child not only learns but moves through the world. Is he mostly visual? Mostly auditory? Or mostly kinesthetic? Always remember that there was a time in our history when people believed that Helen Keller was not teachable or reachable… and she proved the world wrong. Make sure you take the time to unlock the key to how your child learns and moves through the world.
Lie #2) Your Child Does Not Have The Capacity To Focus
This is another lie that parents of special needs children believe, especially parents of children with ADHD and Asperger’s Syndrome. My son is always in motion and gets distracted very easily. He’s like having three kids in one. In the past I used to get so angry because I wanted him to sit still, stop wiggling, stop rocking from side to side and sit on his bottom without interruption. In reality my expectations for him were not in alignment with how he is naturally wired. And truthfully speaking, my constant criticism over things he could not control without tools and help did nothing to build his confidence and academic self-esteem. Watching my son spend the entire day putting his Lego Fire Temple and Dragon together as well as create his board game reminded me that he does have the capacity to focus when he’s engaged in something he likes and when he has tools in place to assist him. Your child does have the ability to focus, find out what he really likes and help him hone that skill so he can begin to transfer it to his academics.
Lie #3) You Cannot Take Your Child Anywhere
One of the things I learned early on about my son is that sometimes large groups and lots of noise have a frenzying effect on him. He seemed to become more hyper when he was in the midst of crowd, so I mistakenly believed that I could not take him anywhere for fear that he would misbehave, embarrass me or get himself in trouble. In fact on class trips he was so hyper that his former teacher put a plan in place stating that he would not be allowed to go on class trips unless I chaperoned him or provided a chaperone to personally accompany him. So I spent a good deal of time working with the school to keep him from crossing the line and understanding how to follow instructions from beginning to end. Sometimes things went well. Other times they did not. This led me to mistakenly shy away from outings with my son. I have now learned to prepare him for outings by reinforcing the rules, having him draw a picture or write a few sentences about why he thinks it’s important to adhere to the rules associated with that outing, I let him bring along something to do or play with if appropriate and if necessary I tell the host ahead of time so that if we have to leave early he/she knows not to take it personally. Don’t buy into the false belief that you cannot take your special needs child anywhere. Instead prepare yourself, prepare your child and if appropriate prepare the host.
In closing, when it comes to your special needs child, look beyond the label and see the gifts in your child. Your child is teachable. Your child can focus…if only in small spurts. And you should proudly bring your child out into the world.