Folks with special needs (often) tend to have lives that are simpler. I didn’t say easy; I said simpler. Over the course of our sons’ span of 39 years of life, it has been interesting to observe how little he wants, how little he asks for, and how little he has. Of course, what he does have is very important, meaningful, and necessary to and for him. Things like his:
- Disney movies (yes, some are VHS)
- Tape recorder
- CD player
- Nintendo 64
- Playstation 2
- Hand games like Gameboy
Should we be getting ready to travel, or if he is staying overnight at my sisters or our daughter’s homes, he knows very well how to pack for a few days…all of the above and not one item of clothing! Oh, and no toothbrush or shaver! See? He keeps it so very simple!
Learning ways to simplify his life and ours has been good for all of us. We know that in helping him choose clothes the night before, and getting out shoes and other items he’ll need can save a lot of frustration and even arguments if planned ahead. Long ago we learned how much easier it was for the whole family, Joey, and us if we simply labeled his shoes “R” for right and “L” for left. It allowed for him to get his shoes on by himself (yes this took a lot of training…but we got there!) and wait seated until one of us could tie them. It was a simple “help” that helped us all.
As the parents, we can say that the simplicity of his life has overflowed into ours, and we’ve learned a lot. We’ve learned some short cuts, and we’ve even learned how to hide things or divert his attention from things that are triggers frustrating him. When we’ve taken note of his poor responses, times of frustration, or even outbursts, and can link it to something that works, that is a “slam dunk”! Here are a few things that have helped us simplify life for us:
- EMBARRASSMENT: In situations that seems Joey might be embarrassed, we’ve learned how to talk to him so that it makes that moment less heightened. It might be that he tripped on a lifted piece of cement. He might get mad, even shouting at us or “taking a swing” at us just because we think he’s embarrassed. We have joked about it, “that silly sidewalk” or “did that sidewalk just jump up at us (US, not YOU)!?”
- OVER TIRED: Joey getting proper rest is critical to his good behavior and pleasantness! The older we get, the simpler this becomes because we’re tired earlier, too! If he is tired shortly after dinner, we let him go to bed. Now that we’re retired, when he gets up isn’t really an issue for us, but for those in younger years, find the right combination of awake and asleep time and work around it.
- OVER STIMULATED: If Joey is talking a lot in the morning, and we have the TV, music, or radio on (and especially if it’s loud or fast paced), it’s hard for him to get his thoughts out. It’s better if we turn off any noise and put our attention to him and what he’s trying to say. When that communication is complete, we can put the media back on. Sometimes, though, when a lot is going on, the quiet, calm, and simplicity is so very helpful to a good start to the day.
We all know what works this time might not work next time, but it’s worth the effort to find the simplicity to make life simpler and more pleasant. It takes time, effort, and trial and error to get to the places we find simple for our child, other loved ones, and us. If you’ve found ways that work, share it with others in the special needs community and it might just help someone starting on this journey.
Dr. Joe and Cindi Ferrini share their newest book: Love All-Ways: Embracing Marriage Together on the Special Needs Journey (order at www.cindiferrini.com). They are authors, speakers, and bloggers for several blogging sites on marriage, family and special needs. They speak nationally for FamilyLife Weekend To Remember Marriage Get-a-Ways, authored Unexpected Journey – When Special Needs Change our Course, and have been interviewed on Focus on the Family, FamilyLife Today, Janet Parshall at “In the Market”, Chris Brooks of “Equipped” and various other radio and television venues. Connect with them at:
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