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Pushing for Success, a Family Essay

Published | By
Myra, Matthew's mom

I think it is safe to say that most of us have and continue to feel sorry for our children who have difficulties in so many areas. I remember watching my son as children his age surpassed him in everything, wondering if it was possible for him to ever catch up. My biggest concern was his attitude towards everything. The frustration was obvious and I could fully understand where that was coming from. He gave up so easily. How could he develop if he never tried. I couldn’t blame him. Why try when it is so hard to be successful. Where is the motivation? But, I felt that he was capable of more than he was doing. If I could only prove it to him. It wasn’t easy.

Anyway, when Matthew was three, he was going to occupational therapy two to three times a week along with speech therapy. I also got him private swimming lessons from an instructor that worked with special needs children. Living in Florida, I felt that it was important for him to learn to swim. Plus, I knew that this would be great for sensory integration issues. Anyway, after the first six lessons, I could see that the swimming instructor was beginning to think that he was unable to teach this three year old to swim. I have a pool and got Matthew in the pool everyday. I started to work with him the way the swimming instructor did it. Luckily, Matthew responded to me and the instructor and learned to swim. Teaching him to swim on his back was the hardest. The instructor was amazed at the improvement once I got involved and started to work with Matthew. We continued the lessons for two years. Eventually, he was taking group lessons with other children.

Also, at age three, the OT was trying to get Matthew to jump onto a mat from a high distance. He refused to do this and cried for five sessions. The OT thought that he was a mess and that she would not be able to help him. After I cried for days, I came up with a plan. I had Matthew jump with me off of my low platform bed onto some soft pillows. We did this every night along with other fun activities. After a week, he jumped in that hole for the OT. After this, I realized that Matthew would continue to fail without my help.

So, I took every task and tried to simplify it as much as possible. If the OT was working on socks, I was following it up at home. We started to go to Discovery Zone and work on obstacle courses a couple of nights a week. We crawled into tunnels with Matthew resisting at the beginning of each new task. We went with him in ball pits and helped him learn to climb a rope over a wall. We went to playgrounds often and climbed ladders with him. Eventually, I put him in gymnastics and gleamed with pride as he followed the other children without me being by his side. We worked on buttons every night for months until he was successful. He was five when we started to work on shoe laces. Along with the OT, we worked together everyday for about eight months on this task .

When Matthew was seven, I told him it was time to take his training wheels off of his bike. I knew he was ready, but he didn’t think so. So, we took his training wheels and bent them up. I told him that he didn’t need to worry about falling, because the training wheel would catch him and it did. After days of trying, we watched him bike down the street with the training wheels way up high. Eventually, we took the training wheels off. This past summer, I took him to a trial karate class. He did not want to go. I bribed him with a toy and told him that he needed to take karate for one month to get the toy. Matthew did it and after the month was over, he asked me to sign him up for more karate. He is now taking karate for eight months and has come a far way. At first, he had a hard time stretching. Was no where near touching his toes. Used to cry when the routine got too difficult for him. So, I started to learn the routines with him. I go to each class and draw pictures of the moves and we practice the moves at home. I am the only parent doing this, but it helps to cut down the frustration and he goes to each class knowing the moves from the previous class. Now, he is starting to learn the moves without my help. Karate has helped his short term memory improve tremendously. He is starting to remember names and phone numbers. Spelling has improved much since starting karate. Plus, he has made many friends.

Sports are a sore subject for Matthew. A couple of years ago, he used to cry at the mention of some sports. It was once again the fear of having to do something that he felt he could not be successful at. Some months ago, we started to play catch, in the house, everyday. In the beginning, he complained. Matthew was not able to throw far or catch very good. With each month, he was able to throw farther and catch better. The other day, he threw the ball so hard, it put a crack in my window. But, I did not get upset. I guess it is time to take it outside. We’re presently working on basketball, teaching him how to pass and block. I just realized, last month, that Matthew did not know how to skip or do hop scotch. After a couple of hours he was able to do this with me. Now, he could do it himself after days of reinforcement. Last year, Matthew did not know how to jump rope. I got a rope for him and me and together, we figured it out. I have him jump rope about twice a week.

Last week Matthew went ice skating with his class. My husband taught him how to ice skate. It was great seeing him excited about this field trip. The teacher said that he skates quite nicely. If she only knew all the months and little baby steps it took to get him to this point.

Anyway, Matthew will be nine in August. He continues to go to speech for articulation. He goes to OT once a week, because he still continues to get frustrated at certain tasks. Two years ago, he did not have many friends. Today, he has many friends and is well liked. On, occasion, he gets frustrated and needs me to intervene, but for the most part, he is on his own. We are now working on teaching him appropriate ways of dealing with frustration. He continues to have difficulty transitioning at school, but this is also improving. He has learned that with hard work, he can be successful and when things get too tough, his Mom is by his side helping him find his way. Although Matthew still needs my help to continue to prosper in certain areas, I must admit, it is nice sitting back and watching him do so much by himself.

So to all parents, you have my full commiseration. I wish that Matthew could have reached these milestones the way most children reach them. With enjoyment and anticipation. Instead, he has reached these milestones with hard work and much frustration before he could get to the enjoyment part. But, he did it with lots of help from many people and continues to get help when it is needed. I realize that not all children respond to therapy, but sometimes it takes lots of different approaches to get a child to succeed. I hope these thoughts help someone out there.