Confession: I would rather ask questions than try to offer answers.
After I wrote about Regan, I heard from a surprising number of you who said you had sons with similar issues. I welcome the wisdom you shared with me. You also asked me what I knew; what I’d learned about SPD; what worked.
I don’t feel qualified to answer your questions. We’ve only begun learning ourselves, and our mistakes constantly lead us back to Jesus in shame, tears, repentance.
But I hear in some of you the same desperation we feel, and if it can help, I will say this:
1. Keep looking for answers.
Friends and family may have wisdom for you, but if you are still desperate, dig deeper. A family doctor is a good place to start: even when he cannot diagnose, he may give you references for further evaluation and support. Do not be frightened of professional help. Jesus will lead you to the right places. Reach for it!
2. Stay close to your child.
- Spend lots of time together; learn to love him as he is. Don’t push him away.
- Stay in tune with his actions and emotions. Try to prevent crises before they arise.
3. (and simultaneously…) Learn to let go.
- You cannot be everything for your child. Learn to welcome others’ care and involvement in his life. Some people will not know what to do with him; others will be deeply drawn to him.
- He cannot always have you hovering. Learn to give him just a bit of tether. Sometimes you and he will both get burned, but sometimes he will surprise you with how well he does. If you remove all his freedoms, it leads to nothing but codependence and frustration.
4. Give healthy stimulation.
We give him a backrub as he drifts off to sleep. We let him “squeeze Mommy’s hands hard” when he is frustrated. We give him newspaper to cut up (endless amusement). We let him snip weeds with a scissors, though supervision is needed—he often ends up cutting something he shouldn’t. We get him to help cook and bake. There are many more ideas in The Out of Sync Child Has Fun.
5. Make everything as visual as possible.
Here are two ideas we adopted from America’s Supernanny (Episode 6):
- We posted a chart of “House Rules,” with pictures of specific rewards and consequences. We tried to capture most of our expectations in just five guidelines that apply to everyone in the family.
A. Use kind words.
B. Use gentle touches.
C. Treat our home with care.
D. Share with each other.
E. Obey Dad and Mom the first time.
When he obeys or disobeys, we can lead him to the chart and show him the result of his choice. Regan connects with ideas better when he can see them.
- We also posted red paper stop signs near his places of biggest temptation: above mom and dad’s bed, where he always used to jump, and on the pantry or refrigerator. “Stop! Ask first!” In the absence of internal checks on his own behavior, it helped him to see a physical reminder. After a few weeks we quietly removed it. It really worked! Now we’re trying to brainstorm a way to create reminders for the behaviors that travel with him…
To all who know what I am talking about from the inside: Thank you for your gracious responses. I welcome hearing from you, and pray that Jesus will give grace to us all–and to our sons.
For some reason, I hear Robin Mark’s song “Revival” playing in my head:
As sure as gold is precious and the honey sweet
So You love this city and You love these streets
Every child out playing by their own front door
Every baby laying on the bedroom floor
Every man and woman, every old and young
Every father’s daughter, every mother’s son
I feel it in my spirit, feel it in my bones
You’re going to send revival, bring them all back home
I can hear that thunder in the distance
Like a train on the edge of town
I can feel the moving of Your Spirit
Lay your burden down—
Lay your burden down