Tuesday, April 4, 2017

My Daughter's Independence

Independence is a goal that many parents of children with special needs have. Early on that may encompass little things like walking independently or feeding themselves. Later in life, independence goals may be doing their own laundry, going into a store alone, or living alone.

When Jaycee was 10.5 years old, she really started showing me that her need for independence was increasing. As I walked her into her first day of school in August, Jaycee got upset that I was coming inside with her. She tried to push me out of the school. Really!? I usually try to respect her wishes, but in this case I was carrying a large sack of school supplies that wouldn't fit in her backpack. I had to go inside with her.

She also has recently been telling me "ou-" ("out") while slamming her bedroom door in my face. Sometimes, she wants privacy and sometimes she is mad at me. My feelings may be temporarily hurt, but mainly I am glad to see that brown door swing inches from my face.

I don't mind her not wanting me around. It shows me that she is developing those typical child feelings. She is growing up and asserting independence. That's what I have always wanted for her. It's not always easy though.

Long ago, using scissors by herself was a big moment!

Sometimes, independence takes intentionality. That means I must choose to step back and let Jaycee do things on her own. Through some conversations with Jaycee's school staff, I have been challenged to teach Jaycee simple skills and help her do things on her own. Some of these things have been hard for me because I am scared of what it will lead to. Teaching her to use a microwave didn't take too long, but I worried she may not understand that certain plates or metals can't go in there.

Independence is a process! For months, I have been reminding Jaycee how to shampoo her hair. At first, Jaycee put the shampoo on her forehead. Now, it's actually getting in her hair. However, she still often forgets to wet her hair first before scrubbing the shampoo in her hair. Jaycee keeps trying though, and I'm glad she has an interest in doing this herself.

Independence takes patience! It is very tempting to just jump in and do things for Jaycee because it's easier. When she struggles with her coat or can't open a soda can, it's hard to watch her struggle. It's better to give her directions to try to help her become more independent, but this is hard!

Independence can be messy! For years, Jaycee has put her plate in the dishwasher and picked up after herself. Recently, she has started scraping food off into the trashcan by herself. I watch while grimacing as most of that food lands on the floor.

"She's trying," my husband reminds me. "It's a good thing."

He's right. I need to allow her to make messes and mistakes because that is how she will learn to keep doing things on her own.

I don't know what life will look like for Jaycee in 5 or 10 years. I have some goals in mind for her, but mainly I hope she continues to want to be independent. It's a process for both of us.


  1. Yes, my son with DS is only 4 and is telling me stop when I walk him to EC! EEK! Can't imagine what he'll be like when he's 10. Love that you let her learn her independence, good on you mom!

  2. Your husband has a wonderful perspective! I try to remind myself all the time that my daughter is trying and to not compare her to others. It's not always easy.


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