Rooting for Failure

“Come on, Johnny!  You can do it!” Mom yelled from the stands.Image

“Just look for your pitch, son!”  Dad encouraged.

From little league to band and everything in between parents are cheering their children on to success.  But special needs parents have to root for failure.

I just read another assessment of my boys.  It is very depressing.  Every skill that they still have not mastered is highlighted.  Every area in which they do not meet the standard of other kids their age is noted.  Every behavioral oddity is described.

Few people could handle this type of scrutiny.  As a gymnastics coach I was taught that kids do best in an environment where there are at least 5 positive reinforcements for each negative critique.  I knew that my athletes needed continual encouragement to push them toward their potential and that they could really only work on improving one thing at a time.  So I would never recount to a gymnast every flaw in the skill she just performed.  I would always look for the positive aspects to praise and then focus her attention on the one improvement I wanted her to try to make in the next attempt.

But when your child has special needs there is no restraint from piling up the list of failures and criticisms.  And it has to be this way to get the help that is absolutely essential.

I heard of a boy who was responding very well to the therapies and accommodations his school had implemented for his disability.  Unfortunately, he did too well.  When his progress was assessed it was determined that he had advanced to a level where he no longer needed help.  His aid was removed and he immediately regressed in his functioning and his grades fell.

So parents have to root for failure.  We have to hope that our children bomb the tests so that they will be given the supports they need.  Otherwise, we are left on our own to try to overcome our child’s obstacles.