Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Showered With Love
The patience and devotion shown by parents who have kids with special needs, is a constant source of inspiration for me. The more time I spend with these people, the more I wonder where they find the strength to get through each day. Mums and Dads who have kids with conditions such as ASD, Asperger's and Cerebral Palsy love their children as all parents love their children. They want the best for their kids as all parents do. They worry and fret as parent worry and fret, and their days are also filled with the usual highs and lows. And on top of all this, they have to cope with the extra things that happen as a result of these conditions being a part of their lives. And these conditions do affect the whole family in ways that I am only beginning to understand.
I was asked to consult with a mum about her 12-year-old son. He had Autism and was still very dependent upon her to complete self-care tasks. Due to his age, and the fact that her son would soon be entering adolescence, she was keen for him to start showering independently. For most, this seems like a fairly easy task and can be done without too much thought. For someone with Autism, the number of individual steps involved in the process can be confusing and anxiety-provoking - rendering the whole task impossible.
Think about it. When you take a shower, what do you do? You get in the shower, you wash yourself, you get out right? Not quite. Break it down further. When you get in the shower, you need to take off your clothes. First your shoes and socks, then your pants, and underwear and so on. Then you step into the shower.
When you step into the shower, you may need to adjust the screen door or curtain. You need to turn on the cold tap, then the hot, and adjust the temperature. This can be DANGEROUS. Make sure the temperature is right. You need to make sure the shower head is angled correctly. Then you find the soap and wash your body.
More steps! You need to wash your face, your neck, behind your ears. Then you wash your chest, your arms, your armpits .... And now you are beginning to understand.
The next step is to replace the soap, turn off the water, get out of the shower. Break it down further - and you can - and you will begin to see the complexity of this one basic self-care task. If you have difficulty processing and sequencing these steps, you will struggle to do this task without assistance.
People who have an Intellectual Disability or difficulties with Cognitive Processing often require visual and verbal cues to complete basic tasks. When you start to think about all the tasks you complete in a day, a picture begins to emerge of what a family experiences when they have a child with these issues.
The 12-year-old boy and his mother have many challenges to overcome, but I have faith that he will learn in time to independently complete some self-care tasks. We will use verbal cues, visual cues and lots of patience and devotion from his mum.