Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Positive Parenting for Kids with Special Needs: Some Great Examples

I’m always looking for examples of positive parenting - parents who are champions of their kids, who look for their strengths and fight to make sure their teachers, doctors, and therapists are working from a strength-based place as well. A great example of positive parenting can be found in three interviews with mothers at the website for ADDitude magazine. (http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/1998.html) With the Olympics capturing so much attention, it’s fitting that one interview is with swimmer Michael Phelp’s mother. The others are with the mother of Ty Pennington, of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and the third is with the mother of Danielle Fisher, the youngest person to climb all seven of the world’s tallest mountains. All these super-achievers have been diagnosed with ADHD.


ADDitude magazine and website, which focus on issues revolving around ADHD, is one of my favorite resources.  Both the magazine and the website are filled with informative articles on a variety of topics and I find that many are applicable for individuals dealing with issues revolving around the autistic spectrum as well as ADHD. This makes sense, since both kids with ADHD and kids with ASDs often struggle with the same concerns: social skills, depression, anxiety, school and organizational abilities. (One disclaimer, the website has lots of ads for ADHD medications. I’m not a medical doctor, and I’m not trained to prescribe or recommend medications or to tell people not to use them. In any case, whether or not your kids are using medications, the articles are practical and useful.)


What’s so inspiring about these interviews? First of all, the children went on to achieve impressive success not just in spite of their diagnoses, but in some ways because of them. The mothers seem to strike a balance between recognizing and dealing with their kids’ problem areas while at the same time highlighting their strengths. The mothers also exhibit the open-mindedness needed to keep trying out different solutions. I also loved the quote from Ty Pennington’s mother, “I was constantly getting calls from the principal’s office. I felt like the worst mother in the world.” Too often, I hear the parents I work with say the very same thing, and it can be so discouraging to feel blamed for your child’s difficulties.


It’s interesting to note that two of these individuals thrived in a very physical environment, one that really focused their high energy. (Something to keep this in mind next time your kid wants to spend hours watching TV or playing video games!)


Your child probably isn’t going to grow up to be an Olympic champion, a world record holder, or a TV celebrity, but these parenting examples can help any kids achieve their very best.