When it comes to a child’s development I find most parents spring into action once a “concern” has been raised, no matter how slight it may be. From that minute they are onto it. They do their research, get referrals, make the phone calls and schedule the appointments. They ignore the naysayers and power ahead wanting to know all the possible things they can do to help their child and insist that they will do whatever it takes. There is no doubt in my mind that these parents are being 100% genuine. However, it can become quite disheartening and distressing for parents who are doing all the right things, when their child is making progress really, really, REALLY slowly, or worse still, not at all.
It is at this point that some parents make their biggest mistake… they give up.
They may never utter these words to anyone or even themselves, but the changes in their mindset and attitude give it away. Trust me, we can tell.
The initial proactive and motivated attitude of “I/we can do this” turns into a more defeated and resigned “This isn’t working”. There’s a noticeable shift in the kinds of questions being asked and comments being made too– “Can we come and see you more often?”, “Can you do extra sessions at their school as well?”, “We’ve started tutoring”, “I bought the XYZ computer program”, “I’ve downloaded some new apps”, “Where can I buy one of those?”, “Where can I find that activity?” and so on.
The same parents who once pushed so hard for the next available appointment and had a slight panic attack when they found out their clinician was taking two weeks off, now sit quietly in the corner each session (checking their phone when they think no one is looking).
No matter how many times a clinician points out the little changes and progress their child has made, these parents just can’t see it and when asked how their child is going they constantly give vague and downcast answers, “ok”, “still the same”, “nothing new”.
The lights are all still on but the motivation and optimism is gone.
Unfortunately, amidst their understandable frustration and disappointment some parents start to doubt whether they are doing enough and start investigating what other options are available. This is often why they start to seek out and pay for more services and products that in most cases their child really doesn’t need.
What the child does need is their parent’s continued involvement over time and no amount of money or specialists or programs can change that. You can’t rush a child’s development. We can only support and encourage it. We cannot set a timeframe, sit back and wait for it to comply.
We know that parents are a child’s most important and influential teachers.
Believe me, the latest devices, apps, software and resources are not required. Your child doesn’t need extra therapy sessions on top of what you’re already doing or additional tutoring, they just need you to stay involved.
We are all very busy and I know it’s tempting but no matter how much your child knows what they need to do if you want to see progress you can’t set them up with a task and then disappear to cook dinner or do the washing. You can’t send them to their room and tell them to call out if they need help. You can’t just increase your 30-minute therapy session to an hour, “outsource” the task to a tutor who comes once or twice a week, or have a roster of family and friends doing a “therapy drop off” if you want to see real change.
In order for a child to make the best progress there must be parental involvement every step of the way!
When you are present and involved you get the chance to really listen and observe what they are doing. You get to see firsthand what their initial response or reaction is and how they got there. You can take note of what mistakes they make and whether they realise it themselves and attempt to correct it on their own. By being there at that moment you can give immediate and immensely valuable feedback in a meaningful context. Learning never happens in a bubble. The more context and meaning a situation has, the more easily knowledge and skills will be retained. Most importantly by being there and involved you will see that your child is indeed making changes all the time. Remember, little steps here and there lead to giant leaps eventually.
Please do not give up.
Do not give up on your child. Do not give up on your own ability to help your child. Do not give up on the therapies and clinicians who are helping your child. There will certainly be tough times and bad days but try your best to keep your head up and power through it because you are exactly what your child needs and you will both get there in the end.