Rules that say how we should be put to sleep in our certifiably-safe beds, what clothes we should we wear, what schools we should go to, and who we should be friends with.
Call it safety measures, etiquette, common sense, guidelines, social graces, or actual honest to goodness written in the lawbooks laws, most of us feel obligated to follow most of them most of the time – and do so with very little question on our parts.
Are you a consummate follower of rules?
When it comes to raising kids with LD, a lot of us –myself included – follow the same path. In fact, I’m the consummate rule-follower. When one of my sons was younger, he had some pretty big language delays. By the time he was in first grade, he only knew about 6 or 7 letters of the alphabet.
Of course, we were doing everything that the rules said we should be doing. Speech therapy twice a week since he was three. A tutor who worked hard on all the skills the school felt he needed. We even held him back, because the school said that would be the best thing for him: they promised that when he caught up, they’d bump him up right back to where he belonged.
Well, we followed that path through the woods without too much complaint, because we thought we could see that tasty little house up ahead with the fruit-flavored gumdrops and organic cookies.
Until our son was nearly eaten alive by the evil witch.
Why following the rules can be outright dangerous.
Well, obviously I don’t mean a real witch. But it was akin to the same thing: we were willing to do what all the “experts” said we should do, because that’s what standard wisdom in special education circles said we should do.
As a result, we lost a lot of years in our son’s life, years when he could have been getting what he needed, if we had been willing to break from the path and make our way through the brambles.
Fortunately, we did eventually decide to forge our own path, and thanks to that, my son is now doing okay. Not perfect – far from it – and until your LD child is on their own and making it through the world, I don’t know too many parents that will really feel like the monster is safely in the oven, cooked to a crisp.
But at least we were able to trust that we knew what was best for our child, and we decided to do whatever it took to help him – our way. Sometimes our way took us on the same path as conventional methods, but more often than not, we were on our own.
3 reasons why you should break the rules – now.
A lot of people I know, however, are still on that other path, looking in at the sugar pane windows and knocking on the candy cane door. If you’re one of those people, then here are 3 things that should have you throwing out the rule book:
Your child is making very little progress.
Ups and downs are natural parts of raising children, especially children with LD. There will be times when you’re elated because your child has finally mastered an important skill, and there will be other times when all the progress they’ve made over the last 6 months seems to have gone down the drain.
However, you should see some progress. If your child is involved in a particular therapy that seems to be going nowhere, then it’s probably time to move on. Unless you can see steady progress towards a specific goal, then that particular person or therapy is not right for your child.
Your child is unhappy.
I’m not one of those people who think everything is okay if your kids are happy. I don’t believe our sole purpose in this world is to feel good about ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with feeling good about yourself, of course, but the best way to do that is do something useful, something that helps others.
But if your child doesn’t look forward to each day, is sad to the point of frequent stomach aches or headaches, doesn’t wanting to go to school or play with friends, or is just down on themselves, then you need to take action.
Probably you know what the problem is, and the solution. Stop thinking about the worst that could happen – your child is almost there anyway – and start thinking about how you can make the best that can happen, happen.
You know your child can do better.
Here’s the tricky one. Your child is actually happy. They have friends. They have a teacher that likes them. The school administration actually listens to what you say. Your child is even making progress academically.
But you know it isn’t enough. When I say enough, don’t confuse “enough” with the insane expectations of a Tiger Mom.
I’m talking about knowing deep down that your child is just treading water, when they need to be swimming. Treading water is great, but swimming is better. Swimming will take you where you need to go – treading water just makes you think you’re getting somewhere.
This is the hardest rule of all to break, because everyone will be offended – angry even – at why you’re choosing to ruin a good thing. Honestly, though? This is the best time for you to break the rules and do what needs to be done.
If it helps, think about all the pioneers who the “authorities” said couldn’t do it. Like Albert Einstein, who was a complete failure even after he graduated college – no one would hire him, and he had to get a low-paying job as a technical assistant in a patent office. The creator of Heinz Ketchup was laughed at, as was the creator of Coca-Cola. And of course Steve Jobs was thought to be out of touch with reality when he first started.
The point is, it doesn’t matter what those other people think. Accept that every child is a diamond in the rough, and do what you need to make your diamond shine.