I spend a-lot of time and effort with my two boys who have special needs, working on what doesn’t come naturally so they can have what I feel will be a better life. I was recently working with my son on a social skills app and he said, “Mommy, I am having the best and most fun life ever!”
Did I just hear that right? You mean that he’s happy just the way he is? I asked him what he meant. He proudly said, “I love my therapists and the people who come and help me to learn. I am so happy!” Reality check. As caregivers of children with special needs, we often focus on our children’s weaknesses. Yet, my son embraces them and loves the wonderful person he is becoming. I felt embarrassed for myself.
Here are ways to focus on the positive traits of your child with special needs.
1. Make a list of your child’s strengths. The list could include anything you love about your child or what makes him unique. List things that your child brings to your family and to the world. Ask someone else who loves your child to list their favorite things too. There’s nothing more special to a child than telling them what you love about them. It’s a wonderful confidence booster.
2. Make a book with your child about what makes him special. This could include photos, words and drawings. Make it in your child’s favorite color. If possible, make it into an actual book via an online service or your local office supply store.
3. Compliment your child daily and in front of someone else. It’s amazing how meaningful it is to receive praise from parents.
4. Encourage your child to tell you when he’s done something he’s proud of. Jump up and down or give a high-five. Let your child know how proud you are of what he’s done. Make eye contact with your child to show him you’re actively listening.
5. Create a special handshake or gesture that is unique between you and your child. This could be a wink, special nod, a sign language gesture, etc. Be creative and do this often.
I am working on doing the activities above with both of my boys. Won’t you join me?
Cara Koscinski, MOT. OTR/L, is the author of The Pocket Occupational Therapist Book Series. Find more at www.pocketot.com.