This one hit home because it was about appreciation.
Here’s what I found when I looked up the dictionary meaning of appreciation:
recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something
a full understanding of a situation
The onus is on us, parents, family members and teachers to undertake this journey from awareness to appreciation.
How do we do this?
1. Always look for the positives or good qualities
We often try to reduce certain behaviors- which may be detrimental to the child or family.
But keep in mind the good things that are in place.
Have you noticed your child’s good nature, his kindness, her unabashed laughter?
If we focus on the negatives alone, it would be a sad life.
2. Respect them for who they are
If we spend enough time and observe carefully, we will come to understand their point of view.
I was in an assessment with a youngster recently.
He was working on a large floor puzzle. I had already collated the information I needed so I was ready to move on to the next activity.
When I brought out the next activity, I noticed him tightly hold on to his mother. He looked angry. He’s non vocal, so was unable to express in words.
I went up to him and apologized to him for ending the activity abruptly. I suggested he take the puzzle home to work on at leisure.
He calmed down, visibly.
There is no harm in apologizing.
William Stillman talks about this in his book, Autism and the God Connection.
Privately, gently and respectfully approach the individual you know you’ve hurt or offended- intentionally or not. Offer your humble genuine, sincere and heartfelt apologies.
This brings me to my favorite point.
3. Always presume competence
I’ve harped on this point time and again.
I’ll do it, yet again.
Your child knows, understands, takes in every thing you’re saying- even if s/he is non vocal.
I recently chatted with a mother of a 14 year old.
I had tried to get through to this teenager, but it was difficult as he wanted music on his phone or his ipad close to him.
In passing the mother mentioned she would often give him the Bombay times newspaper, as a child- to look at.
After struggling to break down the barrier between us, I invited him to the assessment. I informed him that I had his favorite newspaper with me.
He immediately sat down and pointed to pictures of his favorite film star and connected it to a movie running close to his home!
He knew and took in much more than we gave him credit for.
Sometimes all it requires is observation and perseverance.
4. Teach them the way they learn
Do you know how your child or student learns?
Have you taken the trouble to find out?
We were struggling with a teenager with his reading.
The teacher felt he knew to read a dozen or so words by sight.
But the data showed inconsistency. He also over referenced the teacher, making his uncertainty apparent.
I chanced to see this same teenager in his typing class. He was reading phonetically.
We discovered that he had been on a phonetic reading program a few years ago!
So we switched the method of teaching- from sight reading to phonetic reading.
It’s about the child or student.
As service providers, we should be equipped to customize programs based on the needs of our students.
5. Make them aware of their of their own competence
Presume competence but also share this with them.
Currently, I’m working with a young man who doesn’t believe he can hold down a job.
“What job will I be able to do?” was his question to me at our last session.
I had to remind him of his ability to connect with people, of his quickness in picking up new skills and his ability to be resilient in any given situation.
It was as if he couldn’t see all of this in himself.
We can do this by effectively spotlighting their successes. Show them videos of their own work. Show them pictures of joy and success.
Express your appreciation.
6. Show appreciation by doing things together
Spending quality time with your child is essential.
As I wrote this article, I realized I hadn’t been to a musical show/concert for a long time. Mohit enjoys music. We should spend a musical evening out, together.
Make a list of things your child enjoys. Enjoy those favorites together.
Add that zing and fun element back to life.
7. Give opportunities for growth
One of the families I consult with, owns a farm.
Look at the opportunity this mother presented to her child.
I’m sure my occupation therapy colleagues agree that this tops every indoor occupational therapy session.
Think out of the box. Give opportunities. Don’t limit your child.
Show them that you believe in them.
And you know what? They love challenge. They thrive on challenge.
8. Disregard what others say or think about your child
When you truly know your child, what others say will not matter.
In the depths of your heart, you will know what your child is capable of. You will not be swayed by what others think or feel.
Your child will sense this in your spirit. It’s a game changer.
In this new year of 2020, lets make a move from acceptance to appreciation.
I’ve shared my list with you.
Would you like to add to this list?
Go ahead. Add a point and share with others.
Kamini Lakhani is the founder and director of SAI Connections. She has been providing services in the field of autism for more than 20 years and is the authorized director of Professional Training for RDI in India and the Middle East. She is also the mother of a young adult with autism.