“Empathy, Enabling or Empowering?”

Here’s what I know… I understand without any doubt or confusion that when my ten year old son is tantruming wildly, even sometimes ferociously; or when my daughter misplaces her homework yet again; or when my five year old son reverts to biting, just when I thought we had nipped that behavior in the bud…  I am very aware and accepting of the fact that these are symptoms of Autism or ADHD.

I have empathy for my kids!  I know when I am experiencing feelings of frustration and fatigue; being totally worn out from trying to be a supportive parent it pales in comparison to what my kids are feeling.  They sometimes feel a tremendous burden living with their symptoms. Seemingly never being able to get it right! Constantly and sometimes harshly being corrected by adults and often being ridiculed by peers. When well-meaning professionals supporting them have such low expectations; they are afraid to voice their innermost dreams.  Even though I do not have Autism or ADHD (ahem!) I can relate to their pain.

What I urge you to watch for and gauge, is having that empathy translate to accepting maladaptive behavior or allowing our children – any age on the spectrum –  to develop bad and sometimes harmful habits; because we are just so tired.  Enabling our children does not serve them well in any way and it is detrimental on many levels.  The results can also be devastating. Teaching our children coping strategies is a gift of a lifetime.

Knowledge is power!  Information is liberating and elevating…Education is the premise of progress*  So how do we empower our kids?  We empower ourselves!   I recently took a course facilitated by Dr. John Erratt of OUSD about perspective and perception of kids of the spectrum.  It was one of the best hour I have invested in myself in a long time.  The next time that course is offered, I will pass on the information to you.

Here’s what I recommend…  Sit with your children and spouse and discuss the challenges you are individually facing coping with any aspect of the diagnosis in your home.  Make a commitment to find the source of support for your family.  I urge you to partner with Agencies that provide any type of Behavior Support so your family can learn coping strategies. Help is only a telephone call or email away!
*Kofi Annan