Monday, March 10, 2008

Accentuate the Positive, Please

JJ's teacher and I have this little notebook that we write notes to each other in. JJ carries it back and forth to and from school in his backpack. It's a pretty good system. I can ask questions about his day, she can tell me about his progress, behavior, etc. It works to keep us both on top of changes being made, medications taken and how they are affecting him, and if they need more snacks or diapers for the classroom.

Occasionally his teacher and I will get our signals crossed. Its easy to misunderstand the emotion or intent behind what's written, and maybe I don't use enough smiley faces, which could rectify the problem. (Gotta love emoticons.) :) But a phone call generally clears everything up.

Tonight I pulled the notebook out of JJ's backpack, and sat down to read and catch up. The entry today was a particularly discouraging message. it read, "JJ pulled out all the stops- continuous disruptive behavior, running around all day- silly and hitting- wanted to lay on table all day. No stars in bathroom."

We get these kinds of message often, but for some reason it hit me hard tonight. I was feeling like it has been a really long time since there was anything positive written in his little behavior book.

"Silly, uncooperative behavior began around noon. Very loud and pushy behavior all pm."

"JJ only wanted to swing this am during work time. He did not get to because he didn't work hard enough. He was unmotivated and I couldn't find much to motivate."

"Very uncooperative this pm with lots of hitting."

As I read through the past few months, I did see several entries that were positive. "Compliant today." "Cooperative and happy today." "Had fun coloring." "Seemed calmer this am."

In my mind, on the days when he gets a good report, he's like a little robot responding to cues. No personality, all trained monkey. And on the days where he is naughty? I see curious and happy and funny and active. That's the JJ I like. Sure he wears me out and a lot of things are difficult, but at least I can see the little boy that's in there somewhere.

If i am ever in a position to send write little notes to a mom like me, this is what I'm going to say, "He really wanted to run today. I got in my exercise!" Or, "I sure saw his independent streak when he " "He kept turning on the water, he's learned how to show us he's thirsty. Yay!!" "What a little artist you have! He drew Spongebob on the wall. But don't worry it came right off. :) "

It's easy to focus on the characteristics that typical kids have already experienced during the terrible twos (because, really, that is where he is at developmentally) as disobedience and non-compliance. But if you always do that, you will miss the humor and determination and the fun that's bubbling behind his eyes.

I'm grateful to everyone who works every day to teach and care for special needs kids. They have a difficult, often messy, usually thankless job with poor compensation. But imagine the happiness if they could see these special children more like angels, and less like untrained animals who need to be tamed. Let a little noise come out without shushing. Let him dance on the table if it makes him feel good. Brake the rules a little. Accentuate the positive, please.


AmberL said...

I think you are right. Everyone could use a little "Accentuate the positive" in their lives. It's very similar to your last post. A person’s reaction and comments to another person can sometimes make or break them. I am often reminded of Pollyanna and her "glad game". It's really quite a simple thing to do but we all get so caught up in the negative and what isn't going the "right" way that we forget those little things that mean so much more.
And it is so important to encourage our children to be themselves and NOT robots. I can't imagine the challenges that his teacher faces daily but I think if she were to "Accentuate the positive" a bit more she would find her job a bit more pleasant. And then again it may not. But it would make a difference for the moms.

I'm sorry this is so long. ;)

The Mathews Four said...

You are a blessing to so many people, AJ. I just gained some much needed perspective from this post. I've been stuck and quite frustrated in the whole "toddlerness" of my girls lately and I forget to do just that. It helped to read that. I think I have been putting too much focus lately on the wrong thing. Thanks! Love you!