Blog #166~ Lessons Learned on a Ski Slope
After a 27 year hiatus, I recently went on a ski trip to Vail, Colorado. My older son, Hank had never skied before so we opted to take a lesson together. Our instructor Brad, offered up many useful tips to help us navigate the slopes. Many of the things that Brad pointed out, can apply to raising a child with special needs. My younger son, Nick is 22, and has Down syndrome and autism. The daily challenges can weigh a parent down both physically and mentally. That’s were the lessons I learned on a ski slope come in.
Lessons Learned on a Ski Slope…….
*If you point your ski’s too far uphill you are going to roll down…..
Over the years I’ve set goals for my son, Nick. Many of these were aimed too high. As a result, my expectations were not realistic, and Nick fell further back than I anticipated. For example, during his elementary years Nick had a handwriting goal. I was determined that he would be able to write his name and pushed hard for several year to keep it in his IEP. This goal was my dream, but not Nick’s reality. A pen or marker in Nick’s hands equals scribbling all over his skin and clothes. I learned that you have to adjust your child’s goals to what is reasonable and attainable for them, and not for yourself.
*Don’t Fred Flintstone your feet…..
When you ski it’s important to shift the weight on your feet and apply the pressure at different points in order to make the turns. If you dig in and “Fred Flintstone” your feet, the skiing becomes rigid and doesn’t glide naturally. There has to be room for some give and take, when working with a child with special needs. It’s unfair to put pressure on your child to do everything you want, in a given day. Sometimes you have to let that foot up and allow them to have room to understand, process, and do things in their own time. Take your foot off the brakes, otherwise, things will break down for your child.
*Learn how to stop correctly…….
The day before our ski lesson, my son Hank went out with his Dad, Al, to try out skiing. He came home very tired, cranky and discouraged due to going to fast, falling, and struggling to get back up. During the ski lesson, he learned how to maneuver his body, and the proper ways to stop. Afterwards, Hank had much more confidence and felt success. If you push your child with special needs to do too much, they become frustrated as Hank did. This can lead to a risk of sensory overload and potential meltdowns. Recognize those signs of distress, and stop the activity before your child reaches a boiling point.
Hank and I with our ski instructor, Brad…..
*Relax and take in the scenery….
On the ski lift, our instructor Brad, encouraged me to put my ski’s up on the foot rest and relax. He could sense that I was nervous about leaving the comfort of the bunny slope. He reminded me to breathe, look around, and take in the beautiful scenery. I think the same can be true in life with a child who has special needs. The seamless schedule of doctor and therapy appointments, along with the pressure of working with them at home can get to be too much. Nick had very low muscle tone, which is a trait of having Down syndrome. I was constantly providing stimulating activities and exercises to get him stronger so he could roll over, crawl, sit up and walk. Beyond gross motor skills, there was work to be done with feeding, speech and fine motor skills. The guilt of not feeling like you are doing enough for your child can burden a parent even more. At some point, you have to just relax and not beat yourself up. Take a breath and enjoy the beauty of your child for who they are.
My son, Nick……
Skiing like many other sports offer lessons for us to learn in our lives. That day on the slopes, I was reminded about the importance of being flexible in what I expect from my son with Down syndrome and autism. On the eve of his 23rd birthday, I reflect back on how far Nick has come. I going to take a moment and breathe. Like the backdrop of the blue sky against the snow covered Rocky Mountains, I just want to take that in. 🙂
That’s what is in my noggin this week.
Wishing both Nick and his Dad, Al a very Happy Birthday this week ……
Follow Nick on Instagram @nickdsautism, on Facebook and Pinterest @Down syndrome with a Slice of Autism and Twitter #tjunnerstall