Friday, April 07, 2006

The gift of risk

Dream Mom has a wonderful post up today called "The Hole". I think it describes perfectly the value of allowing risk into the lives of children with complex needs.

No, I'm not talking about letting them push their wheelchairs out into rush hour traffic! I mean the ordinary risk of everyday life, such as the possibility of dirty shirts from playing down in the dirt.

We who love and care for children who require from us lots of delegated responsibility, particularly children with significant cognitive disability who require help with ordinary decision-making or self-care, tend to want to wrap them up in protective layers to keep them from harm. And that's fine most of the time. It keeps them safe and protected.

But we sometimes forget that we also have to let them have some element of risk, some decision-making, some experiences, or we are depriving them at the same time we protect them. We are taking away something in our effort to maintain safety, and that is the ordinary place of play and new sensory experiences in a child's life. That's how children learn about the world, even children with complex disorders and problems with cognitive functions.

Allowing risk is not something most moms like me necessarily want to do! In our vigilance to protect, with the fierce love of our children and an understanding of their vulnerability, we often have trouble letting go in even ordinary situations.

We have trouble letting them get down in the dirt to play.

How well I remember the first time I let Emily go into the McDonald's play area and go up into the tubes by herself. I know: those of you who haven't raised a child with significant and global developmental delays are probably scratching your heads about this big "event". But those of you raising kids like mine are smiling with a tear or two.

Of course, she would not come down for love, money, or french fries, and I had to send a young McDonald's counter person up there to get her down. And finally (the truth comes out!) get him to "assist" her down by, well~~~by pushing her down the slide.

She was thrilled with the whole darn thing.

Risk. Choice. Decisions. These are things our kids need.

Dream mom: I'm sorry he ate the dirt. But I'm not sorry he played in it!!



Blogger Dream Mom said...

Mary, You are so right! It's not easy sometimes but they just want to be kids like the rest of them. And yes, they do learn so much.

P.S. Thanks for adding me!

5:19 PM  
Blogger Jenni said...

Thanks for this post. I actually had the same thought earlier this week...what if I let my daughter go up into that McDonalds play place? Worry, fret,....and yes, I didn't let her do it. But we did finally let my daughter play in the dirt, kick her feet in the pond, go down the big slide...Still working on the play place though.

8:03 PM  
Anonymous Jennifer said...

I just had a flashback of my husband climbing up into the McDonald's Playplace tubes to get our little guy. It took a few minutes to find him. He had to ask other kids, "Have you seen a little boy with glasses?" And then they finally slid down together!

3:53 PM  

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