Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Educating and Loving a Child with Extreme Challenges

The following thought is by Rachel Stafford, author of Handsfreemama:

Here in the U.S., many students are beginning a new school year. With that, social, academic, and emotional issues are bound to arise at any age. My hope is that we take some pressure off ourselves and realize we don’t always have to “fix it” or find a solution, but instead just be there for our children with love in our eyes.

My thoughts: I hope everyone who reads this post clicks on this link to read the story written by the author who penned the above thought. It is about a behavior specialist turned special education teacher (no longer teaching though) who reached a child no one else could reach. How? By simply loving and caring about a child who had many behavioral challenges.

What impressed me the most is that this teacher valued the lesson her student taught her. Her experience of helping a boy named "Kyle"sounded challenging. He was in full flight mode, running away because he didn't like/understand a situation in which he wasn't allowed to attend a field trip. But in doing so properly she showed the child she cared and in returned she earned his trust, respect, and willingness to comply.

This story resonated with me because I have a child who frequently responds to distress by going into flight or fight mode. Like the author, I've discovered that the best behavioral plans start with love (or at least fondness).  Any child, even one with autism, can sense if they are not loved or liked. Likewise, a child knows when someone sincerely likes and respects him.  

I tell my son I love him every day. At the moment we are directly discussing the concept of trust because I want him to know that everything I do in terms of homeschooling is with his best interest in mind. Any child, even one with autism, can sense if they are not loved or liked. Likewise, a child knows when someone sincerely likes and respects him. 

I'd like to encourage anyone who is either raising or teaching a child with behavioral challenges to first look past the behaviors and see the person behind them. It's not always easy, but it's necessary. Seeing the person beyond stress-inducing behaviors will inspire you to help them more than if you just see the behaviors and are overwhelmed by them.

That said, I believe that challenging behaviors need to be addressed without a doubt. Fortunately there are many effective techniques to address behavioral challenges (functional behavioral assessments, collaborative problem solving, teaching social and coping skills, cognitive behavioral therapy). However, always remember the techniques are most likely to be effective if administered while having a positive attitude about the person in need of behavioral supports.