Have you ever known instantly that you reacted poorly towards your child?
Have you sat there and thought of the millions of ways you could have handled a situation better?I have. I’ve lost my patience, I have let myself down, I’ve felt failure.
I used to have the patience of a saint when it came to my son
He was such a good baby, he almost never cried. The one exception was when he was in his car seat. He would scream from the moment we left the house to the moment we arrived at our destination.
He would scream, and cry, and there was nothing I could do but it was okay. I never got frustrated, I only felt bad that he was so uncomfortable.
As he’s gotten older, we are now dealing with different set of challenges. While he exceeds his cognitive and motor skills milestones, he struggles with speech and communication. His reaction to anything is only to scream and hit regardless of what we do to try to correct his behavior.
He won’t ask for help, he won’t tell me what he needs.
He only screams.
I try to be patient
While I start most of my days being positive and trying to come up with a plan, I often succumb to the frustration of not knowing what he needs. I don’t understand why he needs to scream when his toy falls over, or why he gets so frustrated that he needs to repeatedly smack me in the face.
I don’t know why all of my internet-researched ways of handling his behavior issues aren’t working. Maybe it’s his age (he’s not quite two). But maybe it’s something more.
Perhaps it’s because he understands exactly what he wants to say and just can’t seem to communicate it to me.
I knew I needed a new plan
I quickly felt myself becoming more frustrated on a daily basis, I was slipping. I’d start the day patient, and end the day yelling. I would yell, he would scream, and it needed to change.
I knew I needed to find a way to help him communicate. He was taking his time (or maybe even just being stubborn) when it came to speaking so I decided to get him evaluated by Early Intervention to see if he qualified for speech therapy.
In the meantime, I found a way to bridge the communication gap and to my surprise, it did wonders on the amount of screaming and whining he did on a daily basis.
Related Article: Why Your Baby Won’t Sleep
Bridging the communication gap
I decided that while we were waiting for the evaluation, we would start sign language. I went online, found some flashcards (that made life a whole lot easier) and started teaching him the ones I thought would help him most. This included:
Every child learns differently, but mine did really well if I just helped him do the sign a couple times with his hands.
Not only did he pick them up really quickly, he started using them instead of screaming.
If a toy wouldn’t work the way he wanted he would sign “help” instead of screaming and throwing it.
If he wanted to read the book again he would sign “again” instead of whining and throwing it at me.
Now, it’s definitely not 100% and he is a toddler so he still has his moments but I was so happy that he was finally able to tell me a little more about what he needed.
Evaluation through Early Intervention
I believe that all states have an Early Intervention program.
Let me give you a little more info; you do not need to be at a certain income level, you do not need a physician referral, and the evaluation and services are provided in your home (if the child qualifies) at no cost. They will bill your insurance if the insurance pays for it but if they don’t, it is still provided at no cost.
Each state and each county has its own guidelines for what makes the child qualify. If the child doesn’t qualify then they will do a re-evaluation within a certain time frame (for us, it would be 6 months).
While my son was above average on motor and cognitive abilities, he did end up qualifying for speech therapy.
And what was the first thing the speech therapist wanted to do? Sign language.
Here’s the deal
Confession time: I kind of always thought that those parents who taught their kids sign language were a little over the top. I thought they were just overachieving parents who were going to try to teach their kids 3 languages before they hit grade school.
Now, I totally underestimated the importance of bridging that communication gap. I just assumed he wouldn’t have a communication gap and he would just start telling me what he needed.
Not to mention, I wanted him to talk not sign– I didn’t want sign language to replace or hinder his language development. But it doesn’t– and this comes straight from his speech therapist– sign language does not replace spoken language. In fact, most of the time, kids start saying the words they learned as signs before any other words.
And him knowing those few signs I taught him really gave him a jump start when he started speech therapy.
Figuring it out
No one is perfect, I wish I had more patience, I wish I knew exactly how to help my kid all the time. But I don’t, I’m not a super mom I’m just a regular mom trying to figure it out.
I’ll be honest, a lot of people thought I was kinda nuts for getting a speech evaluation at 18 months old. The thing is, if he didn’t qualify then he wouldn’t receive any speech therapy and he would have been reevaluated in a few months– no harm, no foul.
He’s not a bad kid– he listens and follows directions, he picks up his toys and even helps with laundry and cleaning. For him to be so frustrated that he has to scream and hit, it just doesn’t line up with his personality. I know my son, I know he needs help right now.
Not to mention, sign language has done wonders for his frustration level, and mine.
Am I never going to lose my patience again?
Am I never going to let myself down as a parent?
Unlikely. We still have plenty of years and plenty of frustrations ahead of us. But for now, I’m just trying to figure it out.
One day at a time.
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