Lately, I have been trying to wrap my mind around Executive Functioning as it pertains to the special needs of my family. Last week I watched a webinar on the subject that said that people affected with ADHD and/or the autism spectrum often, if not always, have executive functioning challenges. One of the ways this manifests itself is not being able to do hard things well, or not being able to overcome life challenges that present themselves without outside prompting/help.
This is hard for both of my boys, but especially hard for my Caleb. We have been working on this for years. When he brings home a homework assignment, for example, that he has dubbed a challenge, he will talk negatively about it in a state of emotional paralysis waaaaaaaay longer than it takes to get the assignment done, effectively wasting an hour instead of getting the assignment done in 15 minutes. I am still working on this with him and I know that we will triumph in the end, but it is a process. This affects all areas of life, however, and I was reminded of this when Caleb went on a ski trip with his 7th-grade class this last week.
Caleb likes to ski and was looking forward to getting to ski for a whole school week with not one dreaded homework assignment, but his trip presented another big challenge.
On day one, he skied on a hill that he was quite comfortable with. On that same day, he had a ski lesson, teaching Caleb and all of his classmates ski techniques and how to use their ski poles effectively on some of the higher, steeper slopes.
On day two, the kids were required to ski only on the steeper slope, and they could not go back to the smaller slope. This presented a problem. It was hard. Caleb and his classmates were repeatedly falling over; it was super challenging. Caleb was not feeling confident in what he was doing at all. On day two, Caleb was 100% ready to throw in the towel. He was so over it. After two emotional phone calls to me from the slopes (both asking me, imploring me, to pick him up), I made the decision to play tough love and told him that I would not pick him up. He needed to figure it out.
Uuuugh! You guys, this was so hard. Other kids without special needs were being picked up by their parents because they were scared and did not want to face the steep slope. I, however, felt a prompting from the Holy Spirit, or maybe just the recollection of what wiser parents before me have done, and made the decision to say no. I knew/hoped that the Lord had a great lesson in store for my boy. I immediately wrote to my bible study group and a group of 2 ladies that I meet with on a weekly basis and asked them to pray with me over my boy. I did not want him to just come home at the end of the week totally bitter that I did not pick him up; I wanted him to do well and see what he could do when God would help him through hard things. And God answered our fervent prayers in a way that brought me great joy…tears, in fact.
By Thursday, he sent me this text message:
This is my Caleb on Friday when I picked him up. Look at that smile.
Casey went to see the new Joker movie. I was sure that I would not like it, so I have not seen it. Everyone was saying that it just takes one bad day to go bad like Joker, but I really like what Casey said about that. He said, “yeah, but Batman had a bad day too.” Caleb did not lose both of his parents to a gunman in an alley (thankfully…since I am his mom), but he did have a really bad day or days, and he was able to choose joy and overcome the challenge, instead of focusing on bitterness in the end, so in a way, he chose to be like Batman. And for him, this is part of his road to overcoming some of his life challenges, becoming more of a man, and step-by-step more like Jesus.