Friday, July 12, 2013

SAVING SUMMER: Serious Self-Care

You have taught me
 since I was a child,
    and I never stop telling about
 your marvelous deeds.
~ Psalm 71:17, CEV ~

"My job is to train myself out of a job!"

"I need to know you can take care of yourself if I get hit by a Mack truck."

I have uttered these words to my children since they were preschoolers.  Keenly aware that it was my job to prepare my chicks to one day leave the nest, I have trained my children towards adulthood.  This has not only included age-appropriate chores, but from little on, enabling and shaping them to become good decision-makers.

Yet, special needs have certainly provided a stumbling block in several areas.  How could I have anticipated my son developing PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) as a result of being jabbed repeatedly with needles and IV catheters when he was little?  Anxiety set up house and refused to move out.  There was no cooperating with the every-other-day infusing, let alone beginning the recommended course of learning to self-treat around the age of 8.

I will use some other opportunity to tell you of the years of psychotherapy, medications and treatment it took us to help our son with his horrific needle anxiety.  Suffice it to say for now, things came to a head late last November, which led us to a fabulous psychologist who has successfully been treating our son with CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) every-other-week since that time.  He has made far more progress than we ever could have hoped for.  And while the Summer may seem like a bust in the traditional sense, our son's march towards self-care has made these months well worthwhile.

Summer is a perfect time for our children with special needs to learn valuable self-care skills.  Without the pressure, the rush and the time constraints of the school day, we can spend more time in the school room of self-treatment.  Whether it is getting our kids into a habit of their own home physical therapy schedule, teaching them how to administer their own asthma inhalers, or test blood glucose levels, we parents can find a bit of calm in the warmth of the Summer months that's perfect for taking our time to train our kids in these essential skills that they will carry with them into adulthood.  Simple steps like learning to order refills of their prescriptions or setting up the items needed for their treatment might be a good place to start.  

I realize this is frightening territory for we mothers.  We are fearful.  Letting go and giving control over to our children in increasing measure means that one day, we may not be able to protect them in the zealous way we have when they are in our charge.  But let me encourage you.  Each Summer can serve to teach just a few of the necessary skills.  It can come in manageable increments.  My son is learning to self-infuse this Summer!  It requires great patience, as well as keeping my mouth shut.  Yet, it is so exciting for me to see him empowered!  This move will give him such freedom.  Next Summer he will be able to go on his first mission trip, perhaps without even one of his parents being along.  

My daughters are also learning medical self-advocacy. 

"Listen to the family medical history I give the doctor," I have told my 16 year old.  "You will need to be able to remember this on your own one day."

"Okay, sweetheart.  Don't joke around when you tell the medical staff your symptoms or they won't know how they can really help you," I warn my daughter with social challenges.

The Summer may not be that storybook season that typical families enjoy.  Still, we parents can relish these months, remembering them as the year our child stepped towards more serious self-care.  And that is certainly something we can be proud of!

PRAY:  Spirit of wisdom, You guide us through every step of life, even praying for us when we are at a loss for words.  Bless these Summer months with patience and perseverance as we avail ourselves of the opportunity to address these complicated skills.  Grow our children to be good self-advocates, to the best of their ability.  Thank You, Father, for redeeming this time.

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