Therapy Thoughts--Friends and Success

When it comes to early developmental issues and question marks, it's nice to have a friend.  God has given me one such friend who has traveled a parallel journey of evaluations and therapies with her oldest son.  She's been so kind to listen to me go on and on about whatever my current concern may be.  She's been quick to encourage and is to be credited with (but not responsible for!) my thoughts in this post since I do my best thinking "out loud."  She's also graciously allowed me the privilege of praying for her son and their family as they've faced decisions and challenges.  Our boys are different in some ways and similar in others, as is the case with her and me.*  While we've both felt the void of having someone who knows exactly what we're dealing with, it's been encouraging and normalizing to have each other.

 One thing we have had in common through the past couple of years has been our feelings and questions--feeling as if everything depends on us, specifically, as the "mom," questions of what's "quirky" and what's truly "a-typical."  We've both been on the receiving end of loving encouragement as well as impolitely delivered bad advice.  We've struggled to figure out practical logistics with our kiddos as well as spent hours thinking through preschools, therapy centers, and schools--from grade school to beyond.

And all of those school thoughts include so many unknowns and what if's.  Receiving appropriate therapies early is so great for little minds that there is really no way to predict outcomes from child to child.  This is both encouraging and maddening.  You almost just want to know right now what you can reasonably expect from your child in five, ten, and fifteen years.  The idea deceptively implies life will be easier or you'll be more "at peace" if you can just know how it's all gonna go here and now.

But, you can't.

And, the more I've read about the instances of dyslexia accompanying apraxia, or the parts of Spencer's speech that may or may not ever sound completely "normal," or the possibility of accompanying fine motor delays, or the common co-morbid sensory processing disorders that may or may not be the underlying cause for the still-too-frequent "emotional outbursts," the more I've thought about the comments we received about the necessary measures for Spencer to be "successful" at communication and, ultimately at school.  And, as I mentioned previously, when we decided to keep Spencer at home as opposed to sending him to day treatment, I had occasion to think even harder about the "success" I was supposedly gambling away.   And, while talking to my friend, I had a bit of an epiphany of sorts.  It's really nothing new or special at all; and, it's good news.

It really doesn't matter if Spencer is exceedingly "successful" at traditional "school-based" disciplines.  It's not success for me as a parent or for him as a person if he makes straight A's his whole life.  On the contrary, I might be tempted to argue that sort of achievement early on sets you up for quite a bit of heartache later in life.  It doesn't really mater to me whether or not he speaks "perfectly" by the time he's ten.  My heart won't swell with pride someday because of my son's "success" at sounding "normal."

Don't get me wrong, I want Spencer to have a happy, full life.  I want him to work hard for things and to be able to feel the satisfaction of achieving his goals.  I don't want school to be hard for him.  I don't hope kids make fun of how he sounds in fifth grade.  But I won't feel that he or I are living a life of any less "success" if that's the case.

My hopes for him are the same hopes I have for his sister, and for any future children we might be blessed to have:  to know in no uncertain terms that he is loved--by his dad and me, and by God.  I want him to know what it is to know and love God.  I want him to have a personal and corporate relationship with Jesus Christ.  I want him to show others God's love through his actions.  I want him to find interests, hobbies, jobs, and career(s) that pull on these true measure of success and put all the pieces together for a watching world.

I know that Spencer and Evelyn are both capable of this sort of success, but should I ever have a child who is not, I would, of course, tailor my definition of "success" for him or her.  The point here is not to outline what "success" should be, but more to encourage thinking long and hard about what you may, even unknowingly, believe "success" to be for both you and your children.

So, I have to be careful, because at this stage it is so easy to lose perspective.  I have to put proper emphasis on working hard for his therapy and academic success.  I have to encourage him to do his best; but I have to remember that achieving therapy goals is only success in so much as it is a means to an end.  It is not success for him.  It is certainly not success for me.

This idea of "success" is something I did not consider or research when looking into where I wanted Spencer to receive therapy services.  I would recommend asking at least one or two "big picture" questions when speaking to directors and therapists.  If your child's therapist or teacher is only ever speaking of or focusing on goals and academic success in so much as it devalues what is ultimately important in life--whatever that might entail to you--then it is time to find a new place for your child and for yourself.  If what you value as a family cannot factor in to the therapy or treatment plan, call around.  A good therapy center will seek to partner with you to help your child thrive in his or her family first and then in school or society as a whole.

Life is more than the sum of it's parts, and therapy and school should be focused on much more than a ticket to the best college where your child is put on the fast track to a high paying job.  Please resist the urge to "therapy" and educate your child to those meaningless, empty ends.

*If the word is an object of a preposition, you use the objective case, thus the "her and me."  "She and I" would be wrong--free grammar lessons right here, ladies and gents.

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