Woo hoo! Encouragement in parenting.

My son Grant, who will be 11 in August, is showing some encouraging signs.

Parenting him has always been a challenge, because of his Nonverbal Learning Disorder, which is (depending on which doctor you speak to) essentially a form of high-functioning autism, where his world revolves around HIM and HIM alone.  He has no filters for, “How would this affect others?” and many of the discipline issues we deal with, with him, are strikingly similar to the issues about which we have to correct Audrey, who is newly-turned 4 years old.  It has always been extremely difficult to determine what is an area in him where he needs correction/discipline, and what is an area where he truly, honestly, does not understand, and he just needs more and more and more teaching.  I will freely admit that it’s been discouraging and frustrating to say the same things, over and over to him, on a daily basis, many on a multiple-time-daily basis, for — literally — YEARS.  (Things like, “If you sow bad seeds, you reap bad fruit.  You can’t do the wrong thing and expect good results from it.”  Along the same lines:  “You just did the same thing that you did one hour ago, for which you received discipline.  Why are you surprised that you are receiving more discipline?  If it’s not OK an hour ago, or yesterday, or last year, it’s not OK now, either.  Please expect to be disciplined if you choose to do something that you know is wrong.  Please stop being surprised that your parents correct your poor behavior/attitude.”  Or, “You may not change the rules in the middle of the game to favor yourself.  You cannot cheat to win.”  Or, “You can’t rip a toy out of someone’s hands just because you want it.”  Or, “Just because you got hurt while playing with others, it’s not necessarily because that person harbors ill will towards you and that s/he meant to hurt you.  It was an accident.”)

However, in recent weeks, there have been two events that have brought great encouragement to my heart, and hope that he just may be starting “get” it, and that all of what we’ve sown into him might not be in vain.

The first is this:  After a meal, he picked up his brother’s plate from the table.  Now, this may not seem like a big deal to you, but it was HUGE — HUGE!!! — to me.  First, he noticed that his brother had mistakenly left his plate on the table after lunch was over.  Secondly, he said to himself, “I can remedy this situation.”  Thirdly, he DID something about it.  Huge.  I was in shock, and gushing with my appreciation and encouragement and thanks for Grant’s gesture.

The second thing was:  We were preparing to depart for something, and Ethan, who is my right-hand-boy, was not at home.  So, over about a 20-minute time span, I rattled off a series of instructions — one at a time; he still has a very difficult time assimilating multi-step lists or tasks — “OK.  This needs to be done.”  Grant did it, then came back to me for for further direction.  Whatever I asked, he did, and did well.  He stayed alert, waiting for instruction, and set himself to the task with focus.  He actually helped us get out the door.  Again, I was in shock, and gave copious thanks and encouragement to him.  To the best of my memory, Grant has never done this, previously.  Usually, he shirks tasks, makes himself scarce when he’s needed, whines when put to work, and has a general attitude of, “If I didn’t make the mess and/or if the effort doesn’t directly profit me, I won’t do it.  Or, if  you make me do it, I will conjure up the most wounded attitude, because, obviously, you’re being unfair to me by making me contribute to the welfare of the family at large.”

I confess I have, many times, extrapolated his 10-year-old attitude, and come up with scenarios that aren’t pretty, about his life as an adult.  Obviously, we still have at least eight-ish years remaining with him in our home, and one would hope to see him grow in maturity.  However, there have definitely been times where I have despaired, and thought that he would never get it.  And, this isn’t just idle hopelessness;  it’s based out of seeing years of instruction matter not one whit to him, and reading case studies of adults with his same disorder (which I have since stopped doing — there are a number of new books out on Nonverbal Learning Disorder, and I tend to find them highly discouraging), because for many of them, the lights NEVER turn on that they live in a world with other people who are at least as important as they are;  many NEVER learn to prioritize others, or act in a manner that defers to others.  I have prayed many times that this would NOT be my son, and continually ask the Father for wisdom in my parenting of Grant;  I refuse to believe that he’s just going to be a “statistic.”  Still.  It’s hard on a mother’s heart to deal daily with the same issues and never see growth.

So, even these small events are treasured up in my heart, and I’m thankful to the Father for giving me encouragement regarding my dear son.


About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on April 12, 2010, in Character Development, Christian Living, Encouragement, Family, Introspective Musings, Motherhood, Nonverbal Learning Disorder, Parenting, The Kids. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Beverly Schmidt

    Karen that’s awesome! I can see why both of those things would be huge encouragments to you! I will be believing with you for continued parenting wisdom. My SIL reminds me often that God puts the families together and what He brings together He gives us the grace (God’s power) for. It is such good encourgment because obviously you know this parenting stuff is NOT easy but it IS well worth the effort! Thanks for enouraging me with your encouragment today! 🙂

  2. i am glad to hear that you have had those encouragements..its hard at times but always remember that Grant isn’t a statistic don’t ever worry about that because i believe God has great things in store for him…see i have that kind of faith for my three…God gave you and Martin Grant because he knew that you guys would be able to raise him correctly…your faith will be seen in him and this will help him grow maybe slower than your other children but still growth is growth.

  3. That’s so exciting, Karen! I’m so happy for you!! 🙂 Way to go, Grant! 🙂

  4. Oh Karen, where do I begin??? Tears come to my eyes as I feel I know your heart first hand. Those glimpses of hope are so dear and so needed with kids who are challenging to say the least. I am still holding on to hope of taking my Madelynn to the Dore for help with her issues but it is really, really expensive. Have you guys ever checked into the Dore?

    Love to you and Grant.

  5. Karen,

    What doctor did you take Grant to for the diagnosis? And why is he “nonverber learning disorder?” and not Adhd? He & Madelynn seem soooooo close in characteristics.

    • Cristi, thank you for your sweet heart and kind words. 🙂 We’ve never been to the Dore. Was it you who was telling me about it semi-recently? Is it like Melmed? Grant was dx’ed at Melmed with Dr. Ruggiero. He was 4, and I was anticipating his coming year of kindergarten thinking, “How in the world am I going to teach him? It’s like he’s from a different planet.”

      But, looking back, pretty much everything that we struggled with, with him fit NLD, even when he was an infant. It answered SSSOOOOO many questions, and in many ways, saved our relationship with him, which is why I was so eager for you to take Madelynn there, and so disappointed that it didn’t work out as well for her there.

      This is probably more than you were wanting, but…

      NLD has some similarities to ADHD, especially in the impulsiveness and not understanding consequences, not being able to predict outcomes, “If I do THIS, then THAT will be the result” even for things that they’ve done a billion times. Well, maybe not a billion. It just seems like that. 😉 Also, like ADHD, most kids with NLD have above-average intelligence. And, like ADHD, many kids (including Grant) with NLD seem to have extra energy, need less sleep, etc.

      Dr. Ruggiero said that NLD very frequently gets misdiagnosed as ADHD.

      Nonverbal Learning Disorder means that, essentially, he has difficulty learning anything that is NOT pure words. He has extreme trouble reading body language, facial expressions, which leads to a lot of social difficulties and even dangers (like, if a bad guy TELLS you he’s your friend, but he ACTS in harmful ways to you, he’s NOT YOUR FRIEND. That was a really hard concept to get across to Grant, that people can be deceptive, and you have to read the WHOLE situation, not just the words). So, many kids with NLD end up as “suckers” for bullies.

      They also have a REALLY strong sense of justice, though what they believe to be “right” can really differ from what the rest of the world thinks is right… So, that can manifest in ways that are funny (like when he was five and on a MISSION to correct everyone — kids and parents alike — that Santa did not exist), but can be devastating in other situations when he gets deeply wounded or offended by others’ behavior, when really, he has misread/misunderstood them.

      Also, kids with NLD have fine and gross motor skill problems. Both the “learning” part of NLD, and the motor skill part, is caused by intrahemispheral communication problems — one side of the brain has trouble talking with the other side of the brain.

      So, we’ve had to do a lot of instruction, from when he was very little onward, on how to decode situations and facial expression/body language. Like, “If you’re talking to someone, and they start shifting around, then start walking away while you’re in the middle of speaking, that means they have lost interest and no longer want to hear you talk. Do not follow them. Or, if you do follow them, it’s NOT to finish your story; it’s to apologize to them for talking their ear off.” Or, “If you’re playing with someone and they start crying, chances are really high you’ve done something to injure their body or their feelings…” then instructing him on taking steps to figure that out, and what to do next.

      I think ADHD kids are like this too: NLD kids have a very difficult time discerning gray areas. He’d rather that the world be black and white, with one proper response for every situation. Reality doesn’t match up with that, because situations change based on the setting, who is involved, etc. (Like tonight at the grocery store… I spent a good 10 minutes in the truck afterwards, explaining to him that heaving heavy sighs while you’re waiting in line is not appropriate — no matter what his INTENTIONS are, what people READ is that you’re communicating, “Please hurry up. I am tired of waiting for you.” In other words, there are situations when heavy sighing is OK, and situations where it is NOT OK, and that’s a tough sell for Grant.)

      If you know anything about Asperger’s Syndrome, NLD is very much like Asperger’s, except WITHOUT the fixations, and WITH motor skill problems (which most Aspies don’t necessarily have).

  6. Your description of how Grant shirks tasks seems eerily similar to my Ethan. I know it’s not the same as mine is just personality and not NLD but boy is it hard to instill those virtues of helpfulness, and family awareness.

    My mom did it by guilting us and I resented her for it because the only one who got it was the ONE (me) who had it in her personality. Yet I also got the brunt of frustration when my siblings didn’t pull their weight. Ugh, how to help my Ethan without building resentment.

    I’ve missed chatting Karen, I’ve had a wonderfully busy spring. Ministry, worship, homesteading etc.

  1. Pingback: And then, my balloon bursts… « Only Sometimes Clever

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