Removing the cotton wool: letting go and building Mr 9’s resilience

By Alive & Well


Over the past few years I have wrapped many layers of cotton wool around my Mr 9 (the artist formerly known as Mr 8 until a week ago).

cottonWhen he was 5, struggling with the social skill challenges and chronic ill health that is his brand of autism, we took him out of the mainstream school system. We built a fantastic home program for him based on the Son-Rise Program’s principles of bonding through love and acceptance, and inspiring growth by capitalising on his motivations. And for a while he didn’t go anywhere outside our house, because life was completely overwhelming for him.

By doing that, I shielded him from the judgments of children in the playground who pick on kids like him, and from teachers who get impatient when kids like him don’t join the group.

That’s not to say all teachers and all kids are like that. They’re not. There are many incredible teachers and kids out there. But I’ve seen kids on the Spectrum have a hard time and I didn’t want mine to have that experience.

Until now.

Building resilience through difficulty

Talk to a parenting expert or positive psychologist and they’ll tell you how important it is for children to experience difficulty in their lives, because it translates to resilience as a teenager and an adult. Of course we’re not talking abuse or poverty here, but smaller-scale challenges can help build a stronger, more content, more grateful adult.

For my ‘neurotypical’ (oh how woefully inept that word is) children, I totally get this. I know that when they deal with life’s disappointments, they can practise being happy when they don’t get what they want. Or learn to be easy with it. Or at the very least, if they do let it ruin their day, know that at some point they’ll be able to get on with life again.

But for the past few years, I felt like Mr 9 had enough to deal with already, so I worked hard to protect him from difficulty. Hence the cotton wool.

Now, it’s time to start unwrapping

With Mr 9 doing as well as he is, it’s time to start letting him deal with the nuances of everyday life.

He’s been practising at home with his brothers, who love him dearly but don’t always go easy on him. He’s been at trampolining school with a bunch of ‘normal’ kids every week and managed their indifference with aplomb.  He’s explaining himself in situations that are difficult for him, which helps others to understand what’s going on and be sympathetic.

So it’s time to let some daylight in.

Instead of feeling like I’m leaving him exposed, I know I’m letting him grow his social strength and resilience. And if he starts to feel overwhelmed, I’ll know what to do.

Have you had to ‘let go’ of your child with special needs, even just a little? How have you found it? What about your child?