Friday, December 02, 2005

Maximizing Independence for Low Functioning Special Needs Children

Self esteem is important to all of us whatever our functioning level.  It is important to note that low functioning children and adults pick up on our attitudes and it impacts their self esteem greatly.  Little things that we may not even think about makes a big difference in how a task or attitude will effect a disabled person’s self esteem.

I cringe when I hear support staff say to Billy Ray “help me make your bed”.  It is his bed and his job to do it to the degree he is able.  The cue needs to be “it’s time to make your bed, I’ll help you if you need help.”  There is nothing wrong with needing help.  Taking ownership of his responsibilities instead of helping him gives Billy Ray the sense of needing to be taken care as opposed to being able to take care of himself with a little help.  It has an definite impact on how he feels about a task.  You can see it in his reaction to the task.

Considering the abilities of low functioning Autistic or other special needs person is an important first step to helping them feel good about themselves.  When evaluating a task or activity allow your child to have the highest degree of independence reasonable for him.  Allow him to feel good about himself for doing what he can do independently rather than more dependent than he needs to be.   If he can participate in one part of an activity independently he can feel good about that one thing.

During the absence of his pediatrician Billy Ray was seen by the medical provider for my husband and myself.  Since both my husband and I have arthritis I had discussed with her which of us was in better shape to carry 40 pound bags of pellets upstairs to the fireplace insert to heat of our former house.  After meeting Billy Ray, the doctor asked why Larry and I were carrying the pellets upstairs when Billy Ray was part of the family.  I had concern that he would lift wrong, etc.  He is quite strong but doesn’t understand the concepts of picking up heavy items and also how to sit them down safely. After clearing the idea with his pediatrician when he returned, we created a three way team to deal with the problem.  My husband would assist Billy Ray in picking up the bag of pellets, Billy Ray would carry them up the stairs where I would meet him to guide him through easing the bag to the floor by the fireplace.  He took pride in knowing that he was doing something Mom couldn’t do and it hurt Dad’s back to do.

There is a tendency to be so protective of our disabled children that we don’t allow them to do what they can do.  Everyone in the family needs to do what they can do.  Your child will feel a part of the family if allowed to participate to the fullest degree he can as a team.

Until tomorrow,
Peggy Lou Morgan

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