Rescue Less: Empowering Kids

Rescue Less: Empowering Kids

RESCUE LESS……empowering kiddos with special needs

How deep the pain and guilt must be when a parent cannot say no to their son or daughter with special needs. How overwhelmed they must feel each day to allow their son or daughter to dictate how life will be lived. How isolated and unsupportive they have to feel to allow their child such control instead of allowing him to develop respect for rules, boundaries, and others’ thoughts and feelings.

Teachers receive requests not to put notes in a student’s backpack, as mom is not allowed to touch the backpack. I have seen a mom spend extra time in her car, driving, because the odometer has not reached a number the child is satisfied with in order to get out of the car. I have witnessed a parent argue with her son’s school because they would not allow him to go on a community outing. The school had informed the student and his mom that if they child eloped from one more outing he would need to miss the next one. This particular student had called his mom and had asked her to convince the teacher to let him go. When the teacher informed the parent she was not changing her plan, the parent asked to speak to the teacher’s supervisor. The parent told the supervisor she did not want the child to be in a bad space when he came home and to allow him to go on the outing. The supervisor supported the teacher and stayed consistent with the rules.

Some parents do nothing when their son or daughter is disrespectful, hygienically offensive or refusing to accept responsibility for their actions. Generally, this action is because they feel their child has a diagnosis of a developmental learning disorder and they are convinced they do not understand. Some moms and dads act in this manner due to guilt and pain, and others just do not take the time to address these sensitive issues.

To complicate these matters, we have therapists whose words appear god-like to parents. They say the child is not ready developmentally to acquire such concepts as patience, respect, boundaries, sharing, or helping. So the parent waits for their therapist to tell them when the time will arrive, and in the meantime, the child is not even expected to take the first step towards acquisition of the skill.

The child has more and more time to become set in his or her inappropriate responses to life.

As a consultant, I believe we cannot always wait for the child to demonstrate developmental readiness. So, I suggest we expect all of our special needs kiddos to follow meaningful rules like their typical peers but understand when the independent acquisition of a skill takes a longer time to be learned or may need some type of support to maintain always.

  • Let’s expect our kiddos early to put their toys away, pick up thrown items, clean up their mess, wait or not always be first, and share, share, share.
  • Let’s begin early to expect them to participate in independent development: picking out their clothes, choosing what they might like to drink or eat, brushing their teeth, and washing their hands and face.
  • With the child with autism there is a tendency to support their rigidity and do the same things in the same way to avoid outbursts….But I urge you to teach CHANGE early. Help your son or daughter understand there are several ways to get to SAFEWAY. Take different routes early so they understand. Visit different parks, a variety of restaurants, book stores, clothing stores, movie theaters, and medical buildings.
  • Attend events early and bring supports (favorite toys, treats, sensory tools (sunglasses, ear plugs, hats, gloves). Go for shortened periods of time and build up length of sessions. Write up and read social stories about places and events before making trips, each and every time. Bring visuals of the event to structure the experience demonstrating purpose and beginning and ending of experience.
  • Teach social skills early (greeting people who come into your home, you see in the store, or at an event) Take the Time…Do it Early… Have them also say good-bye, wave good-bye, and shake someone’s hand when appropriate.
  • Teach sharing (front seat, back seat, brother first, me first. Do puzzles with them — you have some pieces, they have some pieces, and you finish it together). Have them make a snack for someone and pass the snack around to others. Help them pick out a gift for someone, take a dog for a walk, or feed a pet.
  • Teach No, Wait, Not Now, First ________, then ________ early.
  • Be careful with rescuing during the school years or making excuses for you kiddos. Remember that if they are going to a post-secondary school, no one will give them credit for the class without attendance, turned in assignments, and demonstrations of learning.
  • Remember their employer at work isn’t going to offer them continued employment if you come pick them up from the job because they don’t want to do a particular task, or they don’t get their way, or they are late, or they don’t follow an agency rule.
  • Begin early to teach them to be accountable and responsible for their behaviors. It is much easier to handle a 2, 3, 4, or 5 year old who refuses or are engaged in a tantrum than a 12, 13, 14, or 18 year old.
  • Remember your child’s actions in the younger years may be acceptable by others but once they are 18 their actions may be considered against the law (elopement, sexual harassment, verbal threats, property damage).


  • Throw away the blame card
  • Let go of guilt
  • Become the coach
  • Lead by example
  • Take small manageable steps towards helping your son or daughter develop patience, respect and responsibility
  • Seek help that does not provide excuses but helps you develop a plan to coach these important skills
  • Work with your child’s IEP team and see that goals are written to address these skills
  • Remember siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, neighbors, librarians, shop keepers, and post office personal will appreciate your efforts and show understanding in your actions

Photo by simminch

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