Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Green Flag Parent in a Red Flag World

Last May, I posted an article written by Dr. MacDonald called Red Flags vs Green Flags.  I find this ironic and kinda funny because I had discovered this piece well before I knew anything about Dr MacDonald and Play to Talk/CP.  It had been posted on another site, and to be honest, it just spoke to me. 

I thought of it again this week after talking at length to a friend of mine dealing with some tough issues with her child.  She was very discouraged about the messages she was getting from people working with her child.  They were highly negative, and most certainly do not match her (or mine for that matter) perception of her child.  Whenever she talks about something that is new and positive, she seems to get the "Yeah, but..." response.  You know, it goes something like this...

"Yeah, but really he should be doing X, Y, and Z... and well, he is only at C, D, and E...(insert dismissive shake of the head)"

"Yeah, but he never does that at school... and really, he is too far behind his peers to catch up"

"Yeah, but .... (and then that weird look that says they clearly think you are in denial about how terribly, awfully disordered your child is and really you should just come to grips with their assessment of his skills)

The thing that just killed my friend (and me too, for that matter) was that it seemed to her that even suggesting that her child was making any progress as akin to her being in denial about how bad he was.  When she spoke about progress at home, or how he could do certain things in other environments like church or daycare, they doubted her.  She felt dismissed, like the progress she was seeing was not real because they didn't see it.  When you are a parent of a child with special needs, it can feel like you are bombarded with negative messages about how your child is lacking.... how they are "less than"... how they (and you) are failing.  It can make you feel alone and powerless and unsupported.

It is very hard to be a Green Flag parent in a Red Flag world.

So I posed this question to the Communicating Partners group:  How do you deal with the Red Flag people? You know, the ones who say "Yeah, but..." whenever you say something hopeful, or talk about amazing progress, etc etc... Who always seem to look at deficit instead of progress? Who just can't be positive, or must temper every positive thing with something negative? Like being hopeful and focused on the positive is a disease?

And Dr. MacDonald responded.  I felt like I had to share it.  Here is (in part) his message to us parents:

Believe in Yourselves More than Professionals!

I say further that you need to do what evaluators only rarely do-- and that is focus on what the child can doProfessionals often seem to think that to justify their job they need to identify all kinds of mistakes your child makes.  I claim that your child does not make mistakes, they are developmental growth steps.  There are no mistakes, just practices for success.

Professionals would go much further with our children if they would take a developmental approach by identifying what the child can do and have him do more of that.  Stop putting yourself down because you have a child doing less than same-aged peers. That does not make him wrong, and it does not make you wrong.

How often do you feel wrong when someone accuses your child of being wrong???

Don't be blown away by negative evaluations any more than if someone said you have the wrong kind of car, or dress or house.  Be proud of what you have done for yourself.  That will help your child be proud of what he can do.  If he is not proud, he will do less and believe less in himself. (Attitude matters!*)

Realize your child is learning from you all the time and he is learning much more than what you say or try to teach him, he learns how to believe and think by watching you.


In fact they cannot know who your child is and what he does and can do unless they watch him with you and get a thorough report on what he does at home.

Also, professionals are usually asking the wrong questions.  They seldom know much about early development and what children need to do before they're in school (and how to encourage it*).  Skills such as social play, imitation, turn taking, deliberate communication, initiating, responding. listening, and many others are seldom evaluated and yet they are the keys to learning and communicating.  Realize that you often buy into a system that is keeping your child down.  Start seeing how and when you are doing that, such as when you push your child to do things he is not ready for, making him avoid you and others by acting in ways he cannot try to do.

Be more focused on what your child can do and get him to do it more.  At the same time, focus on what you do when he is performing well  -  keep doing it.

Be sure he is your partner more than your student. 

When was the last time a professional gave you a pep-talk like THAT?
I adore Dr. MacDonald.  Thank you!

* my comments based on other posts from Dr MacDonald


Niksmom said...

How awesome! This quote is my new favorite: "There are no mistakes, just practices for success."

I think I need to put that on my blog! And my fridge...and my mirror...and...and...

The Glasers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Glasers said...

I love this post. My daughter with autism and aphasia is 21yo and I can see now that I've been a rapid green flag parent for a very long time. Your post inspired me to blog our little celebration of Pamela's progress.


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