As many of my readers know, I’m the mother to two children with autism spectrum disorders and to complicate things even more, my younger son has a terrible rare disease which renders him un-able to eat food by mouth. He must be strictly fed by a tube in his stomach to live. I can presume that no little girl dreams of this life I’m living when thinking about her future-I surely did NOT. Yet, I am extremely thankful for my children and the life I’ve been blessed with.
At one of my son’s countless numbers of psychology appointments yesterday, I was struck by something the doctor said. “We cannot grow or experience the beauty of things unless we travel out of our comfort zone.” I was immediately speechless (which does not happen often ;)). He was encouraging my son to work on eating fruits and veggies for a more healthy diet but I got MUCH MORE from his statement.
How many times in your life have you dreaded going to this or that event out of the fear of the unknown? Usually what happens is you attend the event and have a wonderful time and are thankful you went to experience something new. In fact, to learn and grow we must all move a bit out of our comfort zone. Think of a baby as he learns to sit up. He has not tried it before and he most likely will fall, yet he knows no fear and tries anyway. Our bodies are hard-wired to try new experiences from the time we are born. This is how we grow and develop new skills that we will build upon for a lifetime. Reflexes gradually disappear and we innately learn to rely on those skills we have acquired. With each success comes confidence to try again, and then we become skilled.
In my book, The Pocket Occupational Therapist, I provide many ways to help children to learn skills needed for daily living. Children with special needs may need a little more encouragement to learn new skills. We need to adapt the activity for them to achieve small successes so that they may build up the confidence to try again and again. It is through this process that skills are learned. When we fail (or our child fails) it is natural for us not to want to repeat the experience. Therefore, it is our job as parents and therapists to help to facilitate successes. However, we cannot truly understand what this means until we take a good look at our own willingness to try new things. Self-evaluation is important to grow and learn. It has been said by Socrates that “the un-examined life is not worth living.” This is quite drastic, yet rings true for us. We should constantly be examining ourselves and our ability to learn from our own experiences and from our children to grow as parents, therapists, teachers.
When we understand that we do not like to fail and sometimes need a little more encouragement to achieve our goals-big or small-we are more likely to succeed. Let’s take a look at ourselves as teachers and step out of our comfort zone. Go for it!
By- Cara Koscinki MOT, OTR/L
Author of The Pocket Occupational Therapist- a handbook for caregivers of children with special needs. Questions and answers most frequently asked to OTs with easy to understand answers and fun activities you can do with your child. Order anywhere books are sold. www.pocketot.com