I saw 2 kids today who are similar in their motor skills. They both have cerebral palsy and walk independently with their walkers. They are both verbal, sweet as can be, beautiful, fun, smart kiddos. They are very different though in their independence in their daily lives. The boy has been pushed to be as independent as possible from early on. He was allowed to fall and learned how to be responsible for his own body in space. The girl was never allowed to fall and has learned very well how to get her family and nanny to do things for her.

Learned helplessness is a powerful thing. When a child learns how to do for themselves they also learn that they CAN do for themselves. My daughter, aka gloworm, has a new trick in her attempts to avoid going to bed at night. She puts her foot in the slats of her crib and says “help mommy, get my foot out.” I say no, do it yourself. She then repeats the same routine with her other foot and I have to say no again. If she continues I would move on to the ignoring strategy, but it hasn’t gone any further yet!

Developing independence is not easy and it has to be a gradual process. We need to make sure we’re helping when we’re needed, but not helping TOO much, and that we are continually lessening our help and increasing how much the child is doing.

To quote the blogger lifeofthedifferentlyabled:   “It’s nice the freedom I am gaining from this new found independence but I’ll be the first to admit it would be far easier to let someone else do that which is physically difficulty for me, yes in case it’s unclear I am calling myself lazy!”

Until children are old enough to have the maturity of this perspective it is our job as parents and therapists to encourage and teach children how to do for themselves.  Our kids aren’t lazy, but they work REALLY hard all day long to do the things we do automatically.  We have to both respect that and push them to reach their potential.  To say it simply…

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