Taking The Time To Really See Our Children

Welcome to the March 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting With Special Needs

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how we parent despite and because of challenges thrown our way. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Before I had my son I was working for a charity, setting up clubs for children with disabilities. This time in my life was challenging, eye opening and ultimately extremely rewarding. The children who attended the clubs ranged in age from three to eighteen years old and their disabilities were varied from asperger’s syndrome to spastic quadriplegia, down syndrome to cerebral palsy, autism to global developmental delay. The experiences I had whilst working with these children helped shape the parent I am today.


I learned so much about patience, about listening to the individual, about breaking away from the book of “should’s” to cater to individual needs. Every child is different, yet some so called experts are under the misguided opinion that our babies are all robots. That they are easily programmable, all you have to do is follow the rules and your baby will comply with your every demand.

And what are these magic rules that we should all be following? Invariably their advice is to let your baby cry, schedule their feeds, bend and break their will and they will mold to yours. But at what cost? The sacrifice of that special parent child bond? The mutual trust in your relationship? I say, make your own rules!

My work with these wonderful children highlighted the individuality of all children to me. Children with disabilities may stand out of the crowd at first glance, their disability may be immediately obvious, but that child is not their disability. Knowing a child has autism is not knowing him, learning about his personality, his likes and dislikes, his fears and aspirations.

Because I was entering into the unknown, I had to start from scratch. There was no rule book here. You can’t group all children with a particular disability together, what works for one child doesn’t always work for the next. I had to really get to know these children as individuals, to know how to care from them and how to meet their needs, and what I found was amazing.

Many of the children I worked with had no verbal skills. This meant communicating using signing, or for some children, something as simple as eye contact and facial expressions. It taught me to really look at each child. To really see them.

How often as parents do we rush by our children and not stop to play? How often do we answer their questions over our shoulder, without stopping to really hear them. How often do we find ourselves not giving our children the time or attention they deserve from us?

Lets take the time to really see our children. See them as whole people, and not just see their behaviour or “misbehaviour,” their abilities or their disabilities. Lets take a breath and gather our patience, talking gently when we feel like shouting, hugging when we feel like walking away, dancing when we feel like stamping our feet. Lets see what a difference it can make!

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

 

Image: phanlop88 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

17 thoughts on “Taking The Time To Really See Our Children”

  1. This is a beautiful post – I love how you have brought the lessons you learned as a professional into your life as a parent. These are such universal truths – regardless of ability! Thank you for writing for the carnival :)

  2. I really enjoyed hearing your philosophy on special needs. i think this wisdom can apply to everyone (even other kids, adults, strangers) because so often, we miss really “seeing” each other because we’ve already got one another in a box. What a beautiful write-up. Your kids, and those you work with, are lucky to have you in their lives.

  3. I loved reading your insight from your work experiences. I think you are right on! To me, if I were following all the rules, breaking baby down to a schedule and my will, I would be missing out on the joy of parenting, which is getting to know this little being for who he is. I already am realizing that I have surprisingly little to do with his personality as it develops!

  4. I love the idea of simply looking and paying attention. I think that, as a mother, I get caught up in being the perfect home caretaker, mother, employee that I have to constantly remind myself that it doesn’t matter to me if our house is cluttered as long as we have time to spend and pay attention to our child and seeing what excites him.

  5. Wonderful post! I volunteered with Special Olympics and trained teenagers with DS in several of the events. It was a blast! It taught me so much about humanity. These were some of the most remarkable human beings I have ever come across! I also worked in a preschool for children with physical disabilities. Again, these children were just so uplifted and positive despite their limitations. Sometimes it takes a special circumstance to deeply feel the good in life. All of these individuals saw so much good in the world – much more than I ever did. A real lesson! Thanks for a post that resonated with me!

  6. SO remarkable that you had this early experience to guide you as you formed your parenting philosophies. I love that connection is so simple to make; eye contact, responsiveness, patience, and time. It is low tech. It doesn’t require fancy toys. And it applies to all people, with all levels of ability.
    This is my favourite line from your post: “Knowing a child has autism is not knowing him.” So true. And so true of my little guy with special needs. =) Thank you.

  7. Such a beautiful reminder and tangible way to think about really seeing our children.

    I am always so very happy to find other parents making choices more similar to mine. It makes me feel so much less lonely, but more importantly so much more confident and connected. Both to others, and my children.

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