Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Behavior Specialist

Some months the stress and challenges of raising a child with special needs is pressing, tiring, even close to unbearable.  (I say close, because God always comes to the rescue when we’re in our greatest need!)  Then again, there are weeks when life becomes status quo, as far as special needs families go.  We can laugh as a family like only a family who knows, can.  These days, we are in challenging/laughing mode.  

Our sweet, funny boy with Down Syndrome, has gone through his own tough times.  In his teen years, he has developed behavior that is difficult to manage. It stumps his social and intellectual growth.  It stumps our family’s ability to do things together in and out of the home.  And it stumps me—the Mom with the M.A. in Marriage and Family, the youth worker, the educator of family life.  After the trial and error of contacting “helpful” professionals, we requested the best, oldest (sorry if that offends you young ones), and most experienced behavior specialist. 

Six months later the old male version of “The Nanny” walked into our home.   I will call him Ned. Thankfully, he was not sporting a camera crew, but he interviewed, scrutinized, analyzed, and labeled our every move!  How unpleasant to have all of our parenting and child’s idiosyncrasies listed in a ten page document.  Ned touts his prescribed behavior plan as if it is his religion—the only way, the right way.  He talks down to us if we don’t entirely agree with him.  My husband and I sit open-postured, trying to remain humble as we consider a new view.   Silently, we are struggling with some of his philosophies.  We burst out laughing sometimes when he leaves, yet we are ever so willing and desperate to try his plan. 

Ned trained us, followed behind us and coached us.  He came over for hours of observation. Sometimes Ned gave us a thumb up for his approval or a talk if we needed to respond differently to our child.  At his direction we have role played, high-fived each other, yelled “yea, great job!” louder and more enthusiastically than ever before.  And it has worked wonders!!  In a short amount of time our boy is productive, happier, using more effective communication, and negative behaviors are dwindling away.  But it is not the end.  Our family is in the midst of a grand process.  Together we are struggling and giggling as we work it out.   We can’t afford not to, as long as we desire our children to thrive, and for our boy to live his best life possible.

Have you thought about seeking outside support for your personal or family struggles?  What keeps you from pursuing it?

I’d love to hear how you have benefited from the help of pastors or other professionals in your life.

Bonnie J. Christensen

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