Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Who Needs Training Children or Adults with Special Needs or the Community

Most parents who have children with special needs understand all too well what happens when there is confusion over “what we doing” or “where are we going”. Many of us spend hours preparing schedules or visuals to help prepare our kids for understanding what is expected. Changes can create such confusion for our child that he or can have a meltdown, sometimes in a public place, or in refusal to go or to do what is necessary. Some parents have said it feels like being held captive to our child’s reaction.

It seems there is a misunderstanding between everyone involved at times. A child may seem to be unreasonable about his need for consistency. To the outside world a minor change in schedule is a part of life. Flexibility to go with the flow of life is a good trait to survive in this hurried up world but it is not something that is natural to many of our children. A pediatric neurologist once explained to me that when you change the routine of a small child they will get hyper but if you change Billy Ray’s routine it is like taking him to a foreign country where he doesn’t understand the language. The confusion is overwhelming to him so he might flop on the floor unsure what to do next. He can literally get stuck.

Inconsistency from all parties involved impacts the situation greatly. If parents don’t adapt the plan to what will work for our child as an individual and prepare them for an event or task, it is less likely to work. I have been more aware of the fact that Billy Ray lives in a world of people who are less regimented than he needs to be and have their own lives full of demands and details. If he is waiting 30 minutes because someone is late they may have little concept of how confusing that is to him.

I wrote about the temperamental mismatch that Billy Ray and I experienced relative to organization here. Having worked through that with him substantially it has become obvious that he has somewhat of a mismatch with other significant people in his life and the community as a whole.

Maybe it is just me but it seems that the lack of understanding and actual intolerance is growing rather than the community awareness we advocate for. We have a Catholic Church getting a restraining order to keep a 13 year old boy with Autism away from their services. I have written about that on my other blog here. If even churches fail to adapt to the needs of members who have special needs how can we expect family, friends and the community to.

To compound it we have radio talk show host, Michael Savage describing Autism as "A fraud, a racket. ... In 99 percent of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out". See here for more details on his comments.

Thus, the question of the post title who needs the training, the child or adult who experiences special needs or those who don’t experience special needs. The sad thing to me is that it is sometimes easier to adapt and teach people with special needs than to teach tolerance and acceptance to some who don’t have that experience.

Until next time,

Peggy Lou Morgan

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