News and Notes from The Johnson Center

Q & A: Intervention for my child is taking over our life. How do we get back to “normal”?

JCCHD | Fri, August 31, 2012 | [Autism Treatment][Q and A ]

The first step to getting your “normal” life back is to realize that your current situation IS normal. Yes, your child’s life may be different than some of his or her peer’s, but that isn’t necessarily abnormal. Many parents are worried that the amount of therapy and intervention hinders children from living an ordinary life. In reality, the guilt of negatively affecting your child’s life can be more anxiety-provoking than the intervention itself. The important thing to remember about intervention is that a lot of it is play-based—or designed to give the child skills needed to be able to play—because developmentally, children use play to grow and learn. Intervention that incorporates play can be helpful in integrating this important step into your child’s life. Interventions that are not play-based, such as medical treatment, can often incorporate play; medical play or role play can help children reenact their experiences while having fun.

Another important issue to note is the change in your family’s routine. Your child is not the only person affected by intervention—every single member of the family is somehow directly affected. Thus, you should include every member of the family in developing coping strategies that will help the family adapt to the new “normal” or routine of daily life. For example, if your family was accustomed to eating out on Fridays but is now limited due to budget concerns or changes in diet, find ways to create a new routine. Choose restaurants that offer an alternative menu or have a family discussion about ways to create a “home restaurant” where you will try exciting new recipes. This way, you can control the budget and ingredients and family members can enjoy being able to cook and “eat in.” In short, there are always ways to modify experiences to fit our needs. Be creative and assess what the underlying goals are to begin with. In the restaurant example, the goal was not necessarily to eat out, but to create opportunities for family time.

Another way to get your life back to “normal” is to pick a specific experience or routine that can be altered to fit into your new daily life. Think of traditions that can be easily adapted, such as reading together, movie night, or cooking together. Even if your child is in the hospital, you can still enjoy your weekly game night. Your children will have something to look forward to and depend on, providing consistency for your family. If you don’t have a tradition that can be easily altered, have a family meeting to determine an activity that everyone will like.

If you think about it, there really shouldn’t be an antonym for the word “normal.” Millions of families every day go through similar transitions. What is normal is different for everyone—recreate normal and enjoy the opportunity to define that word yourself.

Types of Normal