Fudge will be 9 this fall, I try really hard not to compare him to his brother and other kids his age but it is really hard not to notice the huge deficits that he has. He struggles socially with other kids and his fine motor skills are still very poor. He gets easily frustrated by little things that other kids his age have mastered and he often makes jokes and comments that would be funny to kindergarten crowd but not other kids his age.
One of his biggest frustrations lately has been with his inability to recall information, it is almost as though his brain is a filing cabinet and the clerk is misfiling things while he is not looking. A few days ago we had a conversation that went something like this,
" Mom, let's make the race track look like a candy, a candy, a candy"
" A candy what Fudge" I said looking up from the lego track that we were working together.
" You know one of those candy things"
" What kind of candy things?"
" The curved ones with stripes, the ones we hang on the tree at Christmas"
" Oh you mean the shape that curves at the top and has a long straight part?"
" Yes, one of those. What are they called again?"
" Let's see if we can figure it out together, what else could you use something that had a shape like that for"
Fudge was silent
" It can be something that you walk with when you have trouble moving around."
" Oh, a stick"
"No Fudge, a stick is straight, this is a special stick that has a curved top where you can put your hand"
Fudge can not recall the word, he is getting frustrated that I will not tell him the answer. I provide some more prompts trying to find the right clue.
Then his face lights up "a cane, a candy cane."
"That's right Fudge, sure we can try to make our track look like candy cane"
I struggle with when to just fill in the blanks for him when he is unable to find a word and when to try to get him to recall the word on his own. It is a fine line between helping and hindering. I want Fudge to learn to find the missing words on his own but at the same time trying to locate them is so frustrating for him. It is the same for many things in his life, he struggles with things that would not be an issue for many other kids and I struggle with when to help.
We recently got the typed report of his recent neuropsych evaluation and the Clinical Neuropsychologist who did the testing including the following paragraph in response to some questionnaires that we were asked to complete about his daily functioning in the home.
It should be noted that Fudge's low scores on the areas assessed by this measure are thought to be artificially low, in that his parents have taken the tack of doing many things for him to reduce the stress on him rather than to his inability to complete these things. They were encouraged to allow him to explore and complete more activities on his own to increase his level of adaptive functioning and, eventually, his independence.
I was really struck by this one paragraph because as his mother I not only have to watch him struggle with tasks such as tying his shoes but I also have to gauge when he needs assistance and when to let him struggle. It is a delicate balancing act. There is no right recipe for each kid and every family has to decide for themselves when to step in and assist their child. I was struck by the fact that the Neuropsychologist would find that this meant that we were stepping in to frequently, if anything I would say that opposite is true. I have had other people who work with us watch him struggle and just jump and then question my motivations in not stepping in sooner.
I have no answers, just more questions but I do know that I am not the first mother to struggle with this issue and nor will I be the last. I would love to hear what other parents do to find the balance between helping and hindering their children as they struggle for independence.
J writes at Stellar Parenting 101 where she talks about the challenges and joys of raising children through older child adoption who keep her running till her head hits the pillow at the end of the day.