Monday, August 12, 2013

Push, Practice and Progress

The other afternoon I watched my daughter teach her cousin to glide underwater. Macy is seven and Sara Ashley is almost twelve. They are like sisters. This means the world to me and my sister because they don't have sisters of their own. This closeness as cousins will be their "sister" relationship.

"Teach me how to swim fast under the water like you, Sara Ashley."

Starting at one end of the pool, Sara Ashley disappeared under the water, and propelled herself with her feet, pushing off the wall. She raced forward and popped up with a wide grin on her face.

"See Macy, it's all in the push. Practice that part and you can go fast across the pool," she instructed. 

As I witnessed this lesson, I was reminded of an event that happened earlier that same day. Sara Ashley had a horse back riding lesson. Although she has been with her new instructor for two months and has made steady progress, she is not progressing as fast as some of the other students. 

Sara Ashley's lack of  progress compared to her peers can partially be blamed on the inconsistency of her lessons. Due to vacations, we have not kept a regular lesson schedule. For kids with LDs, consistency is key to successful learning. But as I contemplate the situation and others in our past, I am also realizing that I don't push my daughter as hard as I push my son.

Why? Is it because I am aware of her anxiety? Quite honestly, I think my son has performance anxiety too. Doesn't stop me from expecting a lot from him.

Maybe it's because I don't know what to reasonably expect her to be able to accomplish? After all, this is unchartered territory for me. But hasn't God already shown me that Sara Ashley is capable of more than I can imagine?

For whatever reason, my "push" on her seems to be. . . well, not so pushy. And I'm thinking maybe I'm being too easy on her. Just like her swimming advice to her cousin, maybe with more push and more practice, she could make more progress.

I think the real trick in this scenario is understanding the progress. As a parent of a special needs child, I am coming to understand that there needs to be push, but there also needs to be acceptance of the rate of the progress that might be experienced. My child will need more practice. I've often told Sara Ashley's teachers, "She may not learn as quickly as other students, but it is highly likely that she CAN do it- in time." 

She may not read as fluently, sit as quietly, act as quickly, understand a new concept as readily, or listen as attentively, but she is capable of doing all of these things in her own time and in her own unique way.

Isn't this the way God has blessed each of us? We are unique, each bringing our own gifts to this world.

We have different gifts,according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Romans 12:6-8 NIV

It is my new resolution to strongly encourage (push) my daughter to persevere. I will give her the opportunity to practice her skills consistently. I will watch as she steadily makes progress in her own time, giving her the chance to grow in her gifts.  And I will love her for being His unique creation, just the way she is.

How do you encourage (push) your special needs child to persevere? 


  1. Christi,
    I don't have a special needs child, but I do have a grandson who needs a lot of encouragement - especially as he enters his senior year of high school. So I take every chance I get to encourage him - to tell him how smart he is, how kind, how decisions he makes are good ones, etc.

    As always, your post is thought-provoking and well written!

  2. High expectations are different for every child - but they are necessary. We've learned that for sure :)