Social Helps for the Learning Disabled Child
Post # 3 in the Help! my Child has Learning DIsabilities Summer Series
Okay, this one is hard stuff. The social life of your child is either something you don’t have to give much thought to or, it keeps you up at night clutching your broken heart.
I know. And friend, I am so sorry.
Above all, know that I composed this with a lump in my throat and burning eyes. I am having to stop and pray and hope that this post will bring some kind of hope to you. No, I can’t fix it.
Of the things I have witnessed in my 47 years on this planet, the social beast of childhood and adolescence is just that, a beast. Watching a child struggle with loneliness, isolation, and bullying, is a tremendous hurt. It is nearly a physical pain.
And social pains seem to be the ones we carry with us for the long haul. Knowing that, makes it all the more terrifying to watch our children suffer.
I was plagued with what I believed would rob my child of all the good things I knew him to be.
And I have some applications to offer, but first, let’s talk about the bones of helping a hurting baby.
For now, you can fill in the gaps.
Now, I say this knowing, that if your baby is being bullied or systematically left out, it does not fix the wounds outside of your home. But home, home gets to be the sanctuary. Children are most often easily distracted. So, a bad day at school or in a terrible social encounter ends with positivity, the minute they wander into your home.
So much of parenting is out of our control. It may not feel like more than a drop in the ocean, but you matter to your hurting child.
So, plan of a stash of activities that create the healing social sanctuary your child craves.
Cook a favorite meal together.
Rent an uplifting or better, HILARIOUS movie.
Arrange for safe and healthy playdates or hang-outs. I recommend a trusted cousin or neighbor. Someone that isn’t in the regular social path of your child.
Arrange for special lessons or volunteer opportunities. (Animals are a great outlet, puppies are never mean.)
Just head out on a walk with your baby. Let them talk. Tell them stories about your experiences.
Explore martial arts programs in your area. (Check out this article by Rebecca Huff of that Organic Mom.)
Find after-school activities that bless and enrich your child’s self-worth and expand on what they are best at. (such as art, writing, or music lessons.)
Of course, these are just suggestions, yes, all that we tried. The hard part is, the next day still comes and while it may feel like all of the “good home” vibe is battered and bruised, I assure you, it matters. It make dents in the hurt. And, it builds character and your bond with your child.
Adolescent Social Probs and Suggestions
Of course, in the younger years, this is much easier, if you are dealing with a pre-teen or teen, well, that is harder. The teen being craves camaraderie and companionship. Everything feels personal and more hurtful.
First and foremost, bullying is not acceptable. No matter what your child feels about it, it cannot be tolerated. And I know, their first plea is, “I don’t want you to say anything.”
Abuse is never okay. Not even when it is coming from a pimple faced 14-year-old. Physical or emotional or both, the appropriate authority figures need to be alerted to the injustice. In my opinion, that is your call, not a child’s. Most likely if a child doesn’t want intervention it is because they don’t want things to get worse. Unfortunately, there are many parents that can testify to a very negative outcome by not intervening.
And, while it is never easy to call out injustice, especially when you are under 4 feet tall, allowing abuse to continue is the graver injustice.
No one has the right to access your child’s welfare to inflate themselves.
Go get em’ mama.
I do believe that one of the most effective ways we increased our LD children’s self-esteem, self-worth, and social acceptance was by involving them in charitable causes. In our case, our family was involved in foster care, but that isn’t what I am suggesting for your family. But in the ways of filling a social void while at the same time instilling a sense of worth, it is in volunteering.
So, imagine picking up a struggling learner, who also just faced a day of social mayhem.
Now, instead of heading to their room to mindlessly watch Netflix or wait for text messages that aren’t coming or worse, cruel messages from their taunters, you go straight to a volunteer post.
An animal shelter, a church nursery, or even a homeless shelter to help prepare dinner are just some suggestions.
We had a friend whose daughter had Aspergers. While in some situations the young girl was not completely privy to how left out she was, she also craved some level of companionship. The family’s neighbor owned a horse stable where they housed show horses. Every day after school they took their daughter to the stables where she helped brush, feed, and walk the show horses.
Granted they had a relationship with the owners, and one of the hurdles of finding a good volunteer opportunity for teens is liability. But don’t take a first no as the last word. It might take some digging to find a place for your child to contribute to society, but it is out there.
What I would say is that when my socially injured children came home to a physically injured newborn or a displaced toddler in need of shelter, life seemed bigger than the walls of their school.
Furthermore, babies are good medicine. Again, foster care might not be for your family, but there are other ways for your family to be involved. Ask your pastor or a foster care agency about foster respite care. Respite care is when you offer reprieve to foster families. It can even just be for a couple of hours while the foster family sees a movie or goes out for dinner. Or take meals to them, have your teen help prepare the meals and deliver them.
Putting younger more vulnerable humans in your child’s path expands the scope of compassion and while it is rewarding to serve others, I propose it also utterly life-giving to a lonely and struggling child.
And while there are plenty of suggestions out there for occupying the mind of a lonely child and another 4,000,000 on how to help them fit in, I am not sure there is much out there about putting a child back in the driver’s seat by giving them the gift of being needed.
What so many learning disabled children are lead to believe is that they must catch up to something. Putting them in scenarios where they are the one who has expertise in giving of themselves, is a huge step in eradicating some of the doubt that comes from being markedly behind in other areas.I am not sure there is much out there about putting a child back in the driver’s seat by giving them the gift of being needed. Click To Tweet
And, in many volunteer situations, the volunteer is praised for their work.
Certainly, you don’t want to set your child up for failure, so picking a commitment that is suitable to their abilities is a must. But I know no shut-ins waiting for meals on wheels who can find fault with a child delivering them a much-needed dinner.
That said, finding a purpose for your lonely child might be a lot easier than trying to fix a society ready to pick apart their latest victim.
Which brings me to the lonely child who absolutely has no interest in social situations.
First, be in the know about whether this is just fine. Your child may not need the same things you needed in the ways of a social life. Many times I had to check myself to make sure I wasn’t projecting my wants onto my children. I have one child who is entirely content alone.
This child does not enjoy crowds or chatter. She prefers jammies and popcorn on the sofa. While the older, and frankly more jaded I have become, the more I have found myself on the opposite end of the couch with her. But, there was a time when I was wholly worried that she would eventually aspire to be nothing more than a weird cat lady.
As I stated before in one of the previous LD posts, some things don’t need to be fixed.
A recurring theme of this series is most likely comparison.
No one knows your baby like you do. And while it is easy to look at the Smiths and the Hildebrands and wonder why their kids seem to have all things “easy street,” contentment is bred of gratefulness for the seat you are sitting in.
You are the expert in the care and keeping of your children. Okay, I don’t get to call you that.
He picked you for this kid. And I am not minimizing the pain of watching them stumble or fail in the ways of friendship and social life. But I am saying you can be the salve to soothe their weary souls. And, I don’t say this to add to your burden. You are already doing the hard work of mothering, what I am suggesting is thinking outside of the box when it comes to socialization.
Furthermore, there are ways to fill up a social cup, that are not the norm, which is perfect if your kid is not, ”normal.”
The things I was told as a social outcast, the things that I told my child that struggled socially were wrong, and the usual things.
I was encouraged to be different and try harder. I told my child to conform to things, he was entirely against. We practiced ways to be better at friendship. All the while, he was fine. And looking back, so was I.
I was worthy of friendship.
And I was brought down by the belief that I wasn’t. My son was worthy of friendship. And what we instilled in him about himself, the truth of who he was, allowed him to have those dear friendships, in spite of me. In spite of how I told him to conform, try harder, and be one of the guys, he was loved and loved some of the greatest and most endearing misfits on the planet.
It isn’t easy to confess where I messed up, but it doesn’t do any good to write all this without having failed some of it.
The truth is, you can be 47-years-old and still be baffled by the world of friendship and socialization. Only recently was I thrown a curveball. Someone who I thought was a new found friend, only befriended me to advance herself.
And rejection always hurts.
But what is different now, compared to then, I know who I am. It took me longer to get here than I wanted, and I hope I have instilled something in my children that will save them some of the hurts, but hurt helped make me.
Hurt produces something.
Like childbirth, after the pain, there is something that makes us better. And I encourage you with this, the deep roots of your home, the tangible love, and friendship you share with your lonely, awkward, left out, and struggling child, will return to you with a strong, well loved, and precious adult.
It is not always perfect, neither are they, but perfect love casts all fear. You can count on love to protect, correct, and grow in ways no eye has seen, no ear has heard.
It is well.
May your floors be sticky and your calling ordained. Love, Jami
Stay tuned for Public School and the LD Child: Amazing Teachers, Exceptional Kids
And in case you missed them, here are the first two posts!
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