Every new school year brings new expectations of and hopes for new achievements. My oldest started kindergarten this year and by the end of the year I am expecting him to have an excellent grasp of the letters of the alphabet and the sounds they make. I also expect him to be able to write, identify and count his numbers up to at least 20. These are reasonable expectations for his developemental level. By the end of the year, I hope he will be reading. My hope is a possibility but it is not for certain.
Expectations and hopes for schooling change when you have a special needs child. You can't expect the same achievements in the same timeline. It is more difficult to hope because your hope often remains just that. Allowing yourself to compare your special needs child with neurotypical peers is not a fruitful exercise. A seeming lack of progress can cause you to miss the achievements that are there. At times, it seems like moving one step forward only results in two steps backwards in another area.
Today's piece is written for the parent of a special needs child in need of encouragement.
If you have been feeling discouraged, think about this. Learning is a progressive. Sometimes it happens in leaps and bounds but for the most part the impressive milestones are a result of many small acievements. I have been waiting for over a month (I recognize this is not a long time for some of you out there) for my youngest to take her first steps. She seems to be on the cusp but it seems no progress has been made recently. Today I finally realized she has been making progress. She is able to stand a couple of seconds longer and more sturdy than she could a month ago. This is a small but necessary achievement before those first steps. We need to celebrate these small achievements just as readily as we celebrate the milestones.
Look at your calendar or journal from a year ago. Flip through your photos from that time. Think about the activities you were doing with your child. Think about the things you had to do for your child. Now look at this last week. Is your child more indpendent in some of the activities you were doing? Are they able to better follow routines and changes to these routines? Have they learned something new in school? Are they engaging in new ways of play with their siblings? Have they tried a new food or skill? It might seem nothing as changed except for physical growth but there is no way your child is exactly the same as they were a year ago.
Maybe you just did that exercise and you are thinking that a year ago things were much easier. Maybe this past week was one of the worst you can remember. This may not be a comfort at the moment but the struggles you are having show your child is once again growing. This is progress even if it seems to be very very slow and going in the wrong direction. Persevere through this time and take a moment in 6 months time to remember how things have changed for the better.
SLOW AND STEADY WINS THE RACE. It's an individual race your child is running. It's not about achieving milestones in leaps and bounds. It's about constantly changing and progressing so you get closer to goal, whatever it may be, and finally achieving it.