As a respite service provider, my goal has always been simple; I aim to help my kiddos develop in ways that would allow them to no longer require my services. This can seem like a daunting principal but it is completely achievable and one of my clients has reached that point and I couldn’t be prouder.
Independence when it comes to special needs can sometimes seem unobtainable or out of reach, and maybe compared to the norm it is. However, we are not normal people in the first place and celebrating what we each CAN do is what will drive us forward to achieve any number of successes.
Four years ago, when I was first starting out professionally in this field, I began working with Sam (name changed for clients safety). Sam is bi-polar and severely autistic. He was self-abusive to an extremely dangerous level and spent many summers in a hospital room with his arms tied down. Sam, however, is one of the most capable and strong individuals that I have been privileged to work with. He is now 17 years old, and is more independent than I thought he could ever be.
There have been a couple of things that have happened in Sam’s life that have allowed him to be successful. For starters, he has a wonderful family and team that I have been blessed to work with and whom have acted as his advocate and pursued what was best for him with out faltering. As care providers and family members and allies to special needs, this is our job, to make sure our kiddos are getting exactly what they need and what they deserve 100% of the time.
Another element of Sam’s success has been finding the right balance of medications that works for him and finding a year-round school that provides him with an environment that he feels secure in. I am in no way saying that all kiddos with special needs have to be medicated or in a year-round program, but these tools are what have changed his world for the better over the last few years.
Now when you are trying to strengthen a persons abilities to have them become more independent it’s important to take a step back from your situation and analyze what our kids can be successful at. Sam use to be so afraid of hurting himself that he would sit on his hands or insist on holding my hands at all times and would rarely do things for himself. Overtime, I was able to separate his dependence and fear from each other. This could be replicated by creating tasks that our kids can do with an accuracy of 100%. With Sam, for example, I began by teaching him to take over his dishes when he was done eating. Sam is physically capable of everything that I myself can do, so this was an easy opportunity to shift the dynamic from me doing it for him to him doing it for himself.
At the end of the task I would praise Sam with high fives and telling him how proud I was, this in return boosted his self-esteem and confidence in his own abilities. It really is that simple, just taking your self out of the situations that our kids can easily do themselves. Sam’s parents use to cater to everything that they didn’t think he could do: cleaning his room, dressing him, changing him, doing his laundry, making his meals, cleaning up after him, washing him, etc. I realize that some of our kiddos might struggle with doing these things on their own, but the point is to find something that they can do on their own. No matter what that might be, as long as we try there is no way we can fail. 🙂
I think the number one reason why we do some of the things we do for our kiddos with special needs is because we think that it would be easier if we just do it on our own. We know how to do these things right the first time, faster, and easier. However, this mind set does not benefit anyone and it just puts more work on our already heavy shoulders.
Independence is achievable for every person, it just takes that one person to believe in us and have faith that we can do this. Be that one person for our kids, have faith that we can do this. We were not put on this Earth for our benefit alone, we were put here to be there for each other. Anything and everything is achievable if we are given the tools and knowledge to do so.