If you look at my almost 4-year-old son you would agree that he is a happy and healthy little boy. He is almost always smiling, has an incredible memory, and is almost as tall as his 6-year-old big sister.
If you observed him at his preschool or in a swimming lesson, you might jump to the conclusion that he is a brat or that I am a terrible mother who must let my child do whatever he wants.
You see, my son has an array of diagnoses and special needs that aren’t visible to the typical eye. His special needs are the result of early trauma that have affected his brain deeply. His needs manifest themselves in his behavior, his struggle to focus, his ability to transition from one activity to the next, his ability to keep his body in check and many other ways that make nearly every moment a struggle because his brain has difficulty processing all the information and stimuli around him.
We haven’t been able to just sign him up for any activity we think he might enjoy, and we often don’t attend group events, Sunday School or story times at the library. We have to be very thoughtful about what will allow him to be successful, and discuss with the teachers and group leaders whether or not they are equipped and open to learning about how to deal with a child that has special needs.
You might say that having a son with some extra challenges has created a soft spot in my heart for working with kids who have developmental delays or need a little bit of “outside the box” thinking to work with them. In my years of teaching piano lessons, I have worked with kids on the Autism Spectrum, children who struggle with Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD and even one who had vision difficulties. Often times, these kids have tried piano lessons before and had a negative experience. They have a teacher who is not willing to adjust expectations, or perhaps one who has labeled them a “bad kid” instead of understanding that the child’s brain might just be wired differently.