Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Day by Day by Day

I woke up this morning thinking about Monday's post - the one about Lily's iPad addiction.

It reminded me of one of the common frustrations that many parents of special needs children face - every day is different.

Let's say that Monday you have a great day with your child.  The schedule you have in place works well.  Everything runs smoothly.  Tasks are done seamlessly.  Transitions go well.  Supper is a pleasant experience.  And the bedtime routine is a dream.

So what's the logical assumption most parents would come to?


"Today went so well that I'm going to do the exact same thing tomorrow.  Same schedule, same routine, same tasks.... everything.  I finally have found the routine that works for my child.  Woohoo!"

You fall asleep anticipating Tuesday will be a great day, too.

But that's not what happens.

Your child wakes up at the same time, but he's already grumpy.  Even though he liked pancakes for yesterday's breakfast, today he decides that pancakes are his most hated food.  He doesn't want to put on clothes and go outside for a walk, even though yesterday, he wanted to.  And when you ask him to do the same puzzles that he loved yesterday, today he acts like he's never seen them before and throws the pieces on the ground.  Supper is a nightmare.  And bedtime routine?  Don't ask.

So what happened?

Who knows.

This is an all too common experience for special needs parents.  You can be truckin' along, just fine and then BAM!, everything that's been working like a charm for a couple of weeks no longer does the trick.

Or sometimes, what works for one person, doesn't work for another.

For example, back in the day when Lily was pinching the fire out of us, Ryley would lightly hold Lily's upper arm between her thumb and index finger.  She wouldn't pinch or squeeze or even hold her arm tight - just held her fingers in a "pinching position" on Lily's arm and stared into her eyes.  Lily would instantly freeze and stare back at Ryley, like she was waiting for the pinch that was never going to come. It was actually quite funny to witness - this stare-down between a 17 year old and a 4 year old.

But it worked.

The frustrating thing for me?

It only worked for Ryley.  Not for me.  Or Ryan or Reagan or Sunday School teachers or anyone else.

So many times when someone asks me for advice on how to handle a behavior with Lily, I just don't have any words of wisdom to share that I can assure them will actually work.  It's trial and error.  It's thinking outside the box.  It's "what works today, may not work tomorrow".  It's "what works for me, may not work for you".

See how helpful I can be?

You know how all the parenting books will tell you that consistency is the key to a well-behaved child? It is.  It works wonders for typical children.

So what's the key to keeping your sanity as a special needs parent?

Offer consistency.  But be willing to fly by the seat of your pants, too.  Be willing to change the consistency to adjust to an inconsistent child.  Continually add to your bag of tricks.  Be flexible.  Try to stay one step ahead.

And my life's motto regarding The Bird?

"Today was a great day.  I wonder how tomorrow will go...."

To loosely quote Robert Burns, "The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray."

So make those plans.  Create that routine.  Design that schedule.

But don't forget to expect the unexpected.

It'll just make life easier if you do.

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