Expectations will knock you down and kick your teeth out.
That's a phrase that gets thrown around our house a lot. In all truth though, the school we send our two big girls to has taught us so much about expectations. The school is so true to their philosophy of holistic education that each week there's a Parents Program where we learn to be the best parents we can be. Most of the time it is group therapy where we learn that we don't have to be perfect parents and advice is give freely without judgement. It's not often a school commits to supporting their families as well as the children especially when there's a driving philosophy behind the school. One of the BIG things we talk about in Parent Group is the expectations we place on our children, and those we place on ourselves.
If you follow our family on Facebook you would know about our new tv policy.
August 26 : One of the big childhood hurdles for those
with Down syndrome (most intellectual impairments in fact), is
initiating and engaging in play. Sometimes it is very hard to know how
to entertain yourself.
Imogen LOVES her movies. It's easy for
her as she doesn't have to put the thinking effort into maintaining
interest in an activity. TV can be a highly motivating reward for less
enjoyable tasks some times. Unfortunately for us Miss I has come to rely on TV a little too much- and it's not allowing her to develop much needed skills.
So..... Mean mother that I am, I'm not allowing tv until the end of
school term. Instead I will have to work a little smarter to keep her
Three weeks later and I think that the whole shift is working well. Our girls are playing well together plus we have a quieter and calmer house. Here's the rub though - engaging in play and knowing how to progress play is very hard for Imogen. Knowing what to say, how to respond and how to communicate her ideas and wants can be a challenge. She is putting all this extra effort into doing what we all take for granted and now her little body is tired. Her brain is using up so much energy that there is little left over at the end of the day.
To put it into comparison, Imogen isn't tired from marathon training. She isn't exhausted from cross fit. She isn't trying to understand string theory. Her body isn't fatigued from the flu (through the Graves is causing some troubles at the moment).
The expectations that we place on her - academically, socially, emotionally - need to be viewed in respect to the toll they take on her mind and body. For us that means being very mindful of how her body is coping with the demands placed on her. Are we asking too much some days - or worse yet, are we not challenging her enough because we think she isn't up to it or because it will inconvenience us too much. The expectations surrounding tying shoe laces has been filling our lives lately as our middle girl, Stella, managed to learn within hours of getting her new shoes despite being years younger than Imogen. We didn't want to place the expectation of tying laces on Imogen and then be disappointed if it wasn't for her, or worse, have her feel like she was unable to learn how. Low and behold, she has mastered laces at the age of 8! At one end of the spectrum of milestone acquisition but still peer equivalent!
Getting the balance of expectations right, or better yet, tossing expectations out the window, is something many teachers I have worked with could spend more time working on. We should never ask children to conform, especially when they were born to stand out.