No matter whether you are a full-time mom or a working mom, being a mom is not an easy job. There are unique challenges associated with parenting a child with special needs. My lovely 6-year-old ADHD boy is high-spirited, energetic, and opinionated. I had to quit my decent full-time job in order to save my energy and time only for him because he needs extensive monitoring for safety concerns. Rarely do I get surprised if he destroys things when I withdraw my attention from him for more than 10 minutes. Almost all of my son's furniture was bought second-hand, because all of it is expected to be over used or destroyed by my super active and curious boy.
One day, I was preparing lunch in the kitchen. As usual, I checked on how he was doing every ten minutes. Sometimes he replies to me and sometimes he doesn’t. This time, he turned toward me with a special facial expression. He had sat at the desk surprisingly quiet for a long time, and I could tell that he was calm and peaceful at that moment. Though he didn’t verbally respond to me, his facial expression indicated there wouldn’t be a disaster. However, I couldn’t stop worrying about him as he is usually not predictable. There was a time when the white wall was painted with colorful permanent marker though he didn’t make any noise and didn’t move around.
I turned off the oven, walked to my boy, and reminded myself everything would be okay as usual. When I got closer to him, my breath started to get normal because he had been working on a piece of green paper sheet. I felt better because a piece of paper would not result in a problem or a time out. When I started to review the green paper, I could easily tell that my little young man was feeling confident and proud. I saw “HOW TO LET KIS FOLODIREKSHS”, and quickly realized this highly intelligent and creative boy intended to write “How to let kids follow directions”. This interesting title significantly attracted my attention and made me feel more relaxed. I told him that mommy knows that you wrote “How to let kids follow directions”, then my son beamed and started to read his note together with me with great excitement and pride. His handwriting is not perfect and easy-to-read, but I could tell that he had tried his best and was very focused on writing and thinking about the letter sound knowledge he had learned from the school.
Here is the translated complete note from this little young man:
How to Let Kids Follow Directions
Calm down and whisper and put kids on the time out chair. If kids go off the time out chair, they then go to the time out room.
Putting him into a time out chair or time out room can be extremely difficult and overwhelming for both him and me. I used to get panicky at the time out time because of his non-compliant behaviors like kicking, biting, screaming, spitting, and yelling. Many times, I have to mentally and physically be prepared before I put him on the time out chair or in the time out room. Moreover, he always threatens and tries to convince me and my husband that time out is not applicable to his behavior improvement. Fortunately, after continuous practice, things are getting much better.
At the moment I read his note, my heart was melting and my eyes were getting teary. The warm realization set in that my boy - a challenging, hyper- active, sweet, and bright kindergartener - was writing something from the bottom of his heart. There was no doubt that he had great intention to cooperate with his parents and be a wonderful family member. My pessimistic outlook kept me worrying about my child all the time. However, it turned out that I need to have more trust and confidence in my little boy.
I have been getting support, help, and encouragement from the school and the community, and so does my son. My son has been receiving lots of strategies and reminders to calm down. Grown-ups have been working extremely hard to model for my son how to use appropriate words and attitudes in replace of aggressive behaviors. I can’t count how many times I failed to put my son on the right track, but I have tried again and again to set him on the right path. I will never forget the time my son’s super teacher stayed downright calm and gave firm instructions and reminders when my son kicked her really hard. The entire support team has been making every attempt to ignore his inappropriate attention seeking behaviors in order to reduce his misconduct. It looks like things have been changing gradually without my awareness and that group efforts have paid off unexpectedly.
I would like to share this special moment with parents working hard on raising a special needs child. You may feel like an island– isolated and lonely, or you may be jealous of other parents who don’t have a special needs child, or you may doubt your parenting skills, or you may feel your patience is paper-thin. You are not alone, there are people out there – lots of us – who can feel you because we have also been entrusted with the care of similarly complicated, special, and beautiful soul. Keeping up the good spirits and working hard, we will see the light at the end of the tunnel.