We, at Down To Earth, try very hard to not use the word, “never.” We are human, and we slip, but we try to catch ourselves and use another word when that happens.
In our work with families where a child is having some sort of problem, our primary goals are to define the problem as thoroughly as possible so the parents understand what they are facing, then help the family identify strengths and weaknesses accurately so they can use the strengths to improve the weaknesses. We try very hard not to tell parents what their child is ‘never’ going to be able to do! If their child can’t do that particular thing right now, we try to identify the skills that would be needed for him to do that thing and see what kind of resources the family has to work with him on those skills.
One particular example is from when we worked with a severely autistic 8 year old boy and his parents. Mom and Dad were having a conflict because Dad was sure the boy should be able to ride a two-wheeled bicycle and Mom was convinced he couldn’t. They brought him in with a 3-wheeled push bike and we could see that he somehow managed to tip it over on a regular basis despite that it had 3 wheels. We knew that the road to a two-wheeler was going to be a long and painful road, but we didn’t say it couldn’t be done!
As we worked together on this and many other issues, Dad admitted that he was pushing the bicycle issue as a way to prove to himself that his son was “normal.” Once Dad realized this, the bike issue wasn’t so pressing and we focused on some other things that were probably more important in the long run.
Funny thing is that once Dad let go of the bike thing, they were at a birthday party where other children were playing with a pogo stick. The little guy watched for hours, fascinated. Dad told himself that it was okay if his kid wasn’t able to do a pogo stick and didn’t run right out there and try to get his kid to take a turn like he normally would have, starting a screaming tantrum from the boy. Well, the kid surprised us all and asked for a turn! He got right on it and bounced longer than the other children!
Now, if we had said, at that initial meeting, that he would “never” ride a bike, we would probably not have discovered that hidden strength!