Thursday 25 September 2014

Can Supernanny fix everything?

Does 'traditional' parenting work? What would Supernanny Jo Frost make of this?
Sasha in front of beach
Yesterday parents were invited to a mass at school, to welcome the new starters. Sasha stayed in the room for around 30 minutes of the full hour which all the other children (and parents) stayed for. She started to get a bit stressed at the point where she, along with all her peers, was asked to go up to the front for a blessing with oil; she refused. Quietly and without causing a huge fuss though, so that is definitely progress. Can't say I blame her for not wanting to, and I'm sure there were a fair few other children who were nervous or who would rather not have gone up. 
What amazes me always when I now attend these kind of events, is how compliant all the other children are - including my eldest girl. It wouldn't have occurred to me to notice before, because it's exactly how I was as a child too. Almost sheep-like. The others stay sitting down, quietly, because they are told to, and because they are taught that is the way they should behave. Most of them don't want to be there any more than Sasha does. Yes, some squirm, and fidget, and I'm sure there are lots who simply don't listen. They understand though, that there are consequences if they don't behave. While I think Sasha has now progressed to the point where she can understand that she should be 'joining in', and she is starting to see that she is 'different' (which will bring its own mental health challenges), it doesn't make her any more capable of sitting quietly and following 'the rules'. 

I think I've said before how relieved I am that we have an older girl who has been parented in the 'traditional' manner, with rewards and consequences, and standard parenting 'rules'. Whilst I'm not in any way suggesting I have it nailed, or that I am a perfect parent, I hope people can see that she is (most of the time) a polite, well-behaved, well-balanced young girl. Being the older sibling has meant that Tamsin hasn't copied Sasha's behaviour thankfully, though it has of course been very difficult for her to understand and live with at times. It may sound crazy to say, but it feels like Tamsin is my saving grace, the reason why others listen to me, and why they, for the most part, believe me when I explain how it is. Tamsin is my proof that it isn't my fault, and that Sasha's behaviour can't be blamed on my approach to parenting.

I feel for all the parents of children with autism, and particularly those with PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance), who don't have another child at home to compare the behaviour to. In that situation I'd have questioned myself and my abilities as a parent even more than all parents do as a matter of course. On top of that, professionals would no doubt have questioned my abilities too, sent me on 'better' parenting courses. It happens, to so many. 

The truth is that 'traditional' parenting techniques do not work with children like Sasha. Standard autism techniques don't often work either. It's a case of using different strategies, of always having a Plan B, and of being flexible.

Funnily enough, the argument that is often used as an excuse for being inflexible in a lot of other schools (not ours, thankfully, we have been so lucky) is that one child can't be allowed to do something different from the others, because then the other children will want to do that too and their behaviour will deteriorate.

Interestingly, we have not found that to be the case where Sasha is concerned. Her peers just seem to accept the fact that she is often not there, and that she doesn't always have to do the 'boring' things that they have to. Before too long, most of them will also understand that it is not always fun to be Sasha, and to have these difficulties, and they may end up feeling grateful that they can be part of the crowd.

Children are amazing. They are all individuals, but most of them are capable of following the rules and being part of the main pack where necessary and expected. Supernanny has worked her magic on many families; families where discipline has slowly disappeared or was never there in the first place for one reason or another. I honestly don't think she could make a difference here.

Sasha will face different challenges in life because of her autism/PDA. Supernanny can't fix Sasha. She doesn't need fixing. Sasha is amazing too.