A few years ago, I wrote an article for the SPD Foundation’s blog discussing how important it is to see our ‘sensational’ kids as a success in progress. That’s how I’ve always viewed my kiddos. It’s like you can see that little glimmer in their eyes. That’s their potential and they simply need the right tools to make it shine brightly.
I have always been someone who can face anything head-on if I had the right information. A condition or situation is scarier when you don’t understand it, and I knew a lot of the problem for my daughter was that she didn’t have the proper tools to cope effectively.
She didn’t understand why certain things, people or experiences made her body feel so bad. She didn’t ‘get’ why she struggled so much with certain tasks when other kids did them effortlessly. It bothered her that she knew something was different about her, but she didn’t know what it was or why. So it became my goal to explain SPD and her other issues to her as I learned about them.
That is self-awareness. It’s not just understanding the condition itself, but also who you are, how you fit into the world around you, how and why you react to others and, in turn, how and why they react to you. I had a gut feeling that with that level of understanding about herself under her belt, my daughter could tackle just about anything thrown her way. Of course there are things to bear in mind when you are helping your child reach her awareness of self.
First of all, the information you give must be age appropriate. For example, when talking about the condition with a younger child you wouldn’t use clinical terminology. Younger children are more visual in their learning so talking about facts in a more animated manner by using pictures, drawing with them or playing works best, whereas an older child would appreciate the terminology with a description.
Next you need to be sensitive to your child’s level of understanding. Just because she’s seven years old it doesn’t mean her understanding level is the same as that of other seven-year olds. If your child’s level is lower, simplify things a bit. If her level is higher, as was the case with my daughter, you’ll be able to give more facts prompting her to ask questions.
Another important point is that no matter how old he is or what level he’s at, always give the facts as they are. Nothing is more confusing than to be given information that is neither complete nor accurate. No matter how you’re giving that information, make sure he has all the right facts so he can relay it to others when needed.
Once she has the facts, make sure she understands her specific needs. This is very important because no two children will share exactly the same set of symptoms. Make sure she understands what her individual needs are and how to explain them properly. Doing this will ensure that she’s given the right tools and strategies at the appropriate times.
Finally, I think one of the most important things I did in my daughter’s case was not only explaining to her what tools she needed (eg: fidgets, headphones, lap cozies, weighted blankets, chewies, etc.), but also why she needed those tools as well as what they were supposed to do.
Don’t just put her headphones on her when things get too loud or busy. Explain that, “These will help make sounds or voices smaller so you can concentrate/not feel so scared/so your ears won’t hurt/etc.” When your child has answers to the ‘why’s’, she’ll be able to give them to others when she’s asked. Trust me, it makes a huge difference when she has the words to explain.
Giving your child his or her self-awareness is vital. It boosts self-confidence, strengthens self-esteem and makes him feel so good that he can advocate for himself.
And that’s the moment you’ll see that glimmer in her eyes grow into a beacon of light for the world to see.