Thursday, April 17, 2014

Staring down zero-progress

Many of us face this demoralizing reality. Sometimes it's a therapist who conveys the news to us; other times it originates with us ourselves. Either way, the grim assessment is capable of serious harm in myriad ways.

As we all know, relating enthusiastically and lovingly to minimally or non-responsive children is no mean feat. One way we spur ourselves on is the faith that our children are benefiting from our efforts.

But whence do you draw the strength absent any signs of such benefits?

Here are some tactics I find helpful:
  • Don't fight the despair: succumb. After all it is undeniably justified. Now this may translate into less involvement with your child. You may feel capable of doing only the bare minimum for him. But the slump invariably passes within a few hours or even a couple of days. As long as you feel yourself gradually recovering it will have no lasting detriment.
  • After this 'time out' come the inspirational mind games. One of my favorites is hunting for "nano progress". I convince myself that there actually is some smidgen of change that was overlooked. I scrutinize C. thoroughly and usually unearth some positive change.
  • I assure myself that this current state does not mean C. will never again progress. She has periodically hit snags in the past and has overcome them.
  • I focus on the skills that C. retains, emphasize their significance and remind myself that some children are worse off. (Well, not many, but I gloss over that detail.)
  • I admit that the next mind-game doesn't always work but it's an option. I imagine that my selflessness and sacrifices are being jotted down somewhere in a thick book and will ultimately win me a halo.
  • This is truly a last resort tactic: I picture myself and C. on the Oprah Winfrey Show (forgive me, we don't get her new show in these parts.) We reminisce about the days when C. was profoundly disabled, list the many experts who pronounced her a hopeless case,  and share the "magic bullet" that rescued her from her disabilities. I try to keep the daydream as"realistic" as possible - so C. is not entirely abled. She is talking but is still physically affected. Feel free to improvise with this one. For instance, for those who aren't Oprah fans, David Letterman will do just fine.
I would love to hear your tips for coping with your child's zero-progress.

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