by Jennifer Dyer
My daughter Rachel is cute! I think she has figured that out and uses it to her advantage. Because of her apraxia speech issues and autism, I fear I often underestimate her or feel sorry for her and give into her desires.
The other day I was trying to brush her hair, and we wound up in the usual triathelon of craziness: over and around furniture, Up and down the stairs, over the dog, and hand-to-hand combat. While it keeps me in shape, it does get tiring. Rachel’s ABA therapist was here, and she put down her therapist foot. “You have to resist her cuteness and stop giving into her. You allow this to be a game. When you tell her something mean it.”
I wanted to play innocent. “Who, me?”
Therapist wasn’t falling for my innocent wide eyes. “You have to stop thinking of her like a little girl. She’s a big girl. Stop doing everything for her and make her be responsible. Just because she has a difficult time talking and communicating doesn’t mean she isn’t aware of everything going on around her. I cannot stress to you enough how smart Rachel is. She knows she is cute and uses it.”
Gulp. I felt as though caught doing something naughty, but it’s nice to have someone advocate for Rachel and believe in her intelligence and potential.
She also told me to beware using that sweet little voice I often adopt when I talk to Rachel. She said to talk to Rach like I would any other eight-year-old. Otherwise people might not treat her with as much dignity.
She had a point. “Okay.” I wondered how I got stuck in thinking of Rachel as a little one. With eldest I made a natural procession from little kid to big kid. Perhaps she demanded it. Perhaps her verbal skills required more adult conversation. All I know is that I must be more mindful… It’s good to have people like Rachel’s therapist to help nudge me along.
So, I must resist when Rachel resists me with that adorable little smile on her face.