When bringing up a child with autism, you may notice that there are many compensations that the child may naturally develop to make up for areas they struggle in, to help them get through the day. That’s OK, as we have established we all do this to some extent. I want to explore with you now some of the advantages and disadvantages to compensations, because I believe that for a lot of things in life it is important to get a balance right and to understand why you are doing something. We can then decide if the compensations that you have in place are effective for you and your child or not. Please accept this article as coming from a place of love because I want you to do well…
Can you relate to this scenario?
It’s the morning rush, you need to get everyone ready and out of the door to get to school on time. Typical morning tasks that need doing include, brushing teeth, brushing hair, having breakfast, getting dressed, putting shoes and coat on and leaving (and probably quite a few others). As you have dropped your child off to school you sigh in relief that you successfully managed to get it all done in time and can continue with your day. Then you begin to think about how much nicer it would be if your child was more independent and did these tasks for themselves instead. You shrug it off and just come to the conclusion that if you didn’t do it, the day would take forever to get started and the next morning you continue to repeat this pattern.
Advantages of Compensations
Easier and Faster
Having compensations in place make life easier and faster, which is probably why we over compensate in the first place.
An advantage of overcompensating (by doing it for your child) for what your child cannot yet do for themselves, is that you get tasks done, you can tick items off of your to do list and go through the motions of each day. With these compensations in place you find that you get things done more quickly and you avoid the drama of it all going wrong, when you don’t have time to deal with that.
It’s hard enough
Sometimes I hear parents say that their child’s life is so difficult that they just want to make things easier for them, so they overcompensate for them, by doing things for them, not setting limits and allowing bad behaviours to go unnoticed.
Some compensations can be particularly helpful for the child, prevent them from getting frustrated and support them in achieving bigger things.
Here are two situations where compensations can be very helpful:
Using a keyboard instead of writing when child has difficulties with motor control.
Using a visual schedule to reduce anxiety to replace constant verbal reminders.
Disadvantages of Compensations
No room for change
I would say the biggest issue with compensations is that it limits the possibility of change and cognitive growth. It is more beneficial to help children in their weak areas and help them develop than get through the day. The brain is an experience dependent organ. That means that it learns through experiences. If we do not use the lifestyle opportunities that we have every day to provide new experiences then the neural pathways will not change in that area, forcing us to continue to overcompensate.
All happens too fast
Its all too easy to recognise that this is an area you need to make progress on but continue to put it off because you don’t have the time or patience or whatever it is to do it. Before you know it a year will go by, and then another and another, and although its never too late to make changes, your life will be much easier in the long run and your child’s will be much more fulfilling if they were able to do this.
Sometimes we can loose our focus in life and other less important things take more priority over remediation. But this can easily take over your life if you let it. You must stay focused on your values and goals for your bigger dream. If your dream is to help your child live an independent life of good quality, look at the small things you are doing on a daily basis, is it helping you towards that goal?
The longer the history of overcompensation has occurred between guide and child the more dependent the child will be on others to do things for them throughout their life.
Does it all feel too much? It can be a change in responsibility and practicalities. All you need to do is take small conscious steps towards you goal each day and before you know it, you would have achieved massive amounts!
I invite you to think about your bigger dream for your child and consider whether there are inconsistencies in your actions to achieve this.
“Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
Martin Luther King
If you would like to discuss how RDI can help you transfer more responsibility to your child and guide them effectively while being mindful of your compensations then please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss this further.