The carers of children labelled with ‘behavioural difficulties’ need to see past the label assigned to the child and what they can’t do, into what they really can do according to the co-authors of a new book Would you teach a fish to climb a tree?
The book is filled with practical tools, stories, observations, and life changing questions that can be used by anyone who has one of these kids in their life and who is looking for something different.
“The book is for those who are willing to step beyond what so many experts in the field advocate, into what they actually know to be effective with the children,” explains co-author Gary Douglas.
"It's all about acknowledging that your child, knows things, perceives things, and receives things too and trying not to come from the perspective that you’re superior because you’re an adult. Your kids have their own wisdom, and even though their bodies are smaller than yours, it doesn’t mean they are smaller than you are," says Douglas.
"Acknowledging their capacity to perceive, comprehend, be and contribute valuable knowledge is the single most important thing that you, as a parent or a teacher, can do to assist them to access their talents and capacities.
“This is especially true for kids with autism spectrum disorder, OCD, ADD, ADHD and all those other labels – because they have special gifts."
Douglas and co-authors Dain Heer and Anne Maxwell believe that sometimes a different understanding of children who don't fit 'inside the box' is all it takes for them and their parents to thrive in much happier relationships.
"With diagnoses of kids with so-called ‘behavioural difficulties’ on the increase it's time to stop seeing them as limited and instead understand the infinite possibility that lies within them."
Here are Gary’s five tips for dealing with children who are diagnosed with ASD, OCD, ADD or ADHD.
1. Acknowledge that these kids are different
Do so without judging them or you or assigning a meaning to their difference. They learn differently, they think differently, they function differently … they are different.
2. Ask yourself:
- What if different is simply different … not right, not wrong … just different?
- What if there is nothing wrong with them? And, if they weren’t wrong, what would they be? If it weren’t wrong, what would it be?
- What if they don’t need to be fixed?
- What if they could be given the tools and the wherewithal to function in their lives, without being made to feel bad for being who they are and for not fitting in?
When you treat your kids as special and valuable and remarkable and one-of-a kind … without criticising you or them … your relationship with them can change in ways you never thought possible. When you stop making them be a problem that needs to be fixed, they stop functioning as a problem that needs to be fixed.
3. These kids are incredibly aware
They tend to pick up on the angst and worry of the people around them. Acknowledge these kids for who they are, not for who they’re not.
For example, acknowledge them for being as aware and perceptive and intuitive as they are. You could ask them: “What do you know? What do you know about _____? Who does that (anger, worry …) belong to?” You might be surprised at how much and what they do know. And when they tell you, acknowledge what they have told you … don’t try to talk them in or out of what they said.
4. These kids don’t like to be told how to be or what to say or how to feel
If you could shift away from looking for the “right answer” and trying to justify and explain and understand who they are, and instead, ask questions, that could change a lot.
Ask lots of questions! Like: “What do I know about my child? And, what else do I know about her? And, what else? And, what else?”
And, what if you did not judge what comes to you? It may be that what you know about your child flies in the face of what the “experts” say.
For example, perhaps your 5-year-old does not need 10-11 hours of sleep each night … Perhaps all she needs is 5-7 hours. Would you be willing to trust that? What if you could sit with all the awareness and information you will get … It will make it easier to see her without feeling bad or stuck. And, you will get a sense of where to go from there.
5. There is a widespread belief that kids with so-called disabilities aren’t able to make “good choices”
Often adults are not willing to let them make choices about the day-to-day things in their lives. It may seem to many people that these kids don’t have choice.
But what if they actually do? Choice creates.
They can choose whether to be grumpy (or not), whether to be silly (or not), whether to bang their head (or not). Instead of trying to control them by making them behave in a certain way, you could ask them: “What are you creating with this choice? Is this what you would like to have in your life? Is there another way you could be with this? Is there another way you could let us know what’s going on with you?” When you let them make these choices, they get to tap into what they are creating (a sore head, a grumpy day) and make a different choice … or not.
In any event, it will be their choice. If you have the point of view that what they are choosing is “bad,” their only choice is to push back against you and keep doing what they are doing.
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Gary Douglas will give a workshop on how to have a different perspective on children with 'behavioural difficulties' in Perth on 18th September. The cost includes a copy of the book. Further information here: http://garymdouglas.com/fish