Being a homeschooling mom of a child with Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), I get to make a lot of the decisions on what groups to join and with which friends to do field trips. Some of these group situations are ones where I know my son will thrive. Others of these situations are ones that I know are doomed to failure.
But I usually try anyway.
Depending on the environment, such groups can be overwhelming and daunting. At other times, these groups can circle around the child and let them know they are loved and accepted just as they are.
As a mom, I’m so thankful for the friends and parents that have circled our family and filled it with love and encouragement. There are hard days for the parents and there are hard days for the children. This is true of any family. But it’s even more true for the family dealing with APD. In many ways, APD can be a huge blessing because it means constantly checking in with your child, talking to your child, and pouring your life into that child. However, it also comes with challenges of being misunderstood, frustration from both sides because of guilt and many other feelings, and just tired of trying over and over again while constantly failing.
So as someone who is inviting a child with APD and their family into your group of friends or educational class, here are some helpful suggestions.
1. Don’t be offended if the parent says “no, we can’t do that today.” (Even if it’s a last minute cancellation.)
There are hard days. Hard, hard days. Perhaps their child woke up crabby and there’s nothing they can do to reason with them so they have to send them back to bed for a re-start to their day. Yes, we still have days like that. Maybe the parents have already had a slew of words yelled at them that have just drained all of their energy and they can’t possibly be around a group that appears to have no struggles. Or maybe they just don’t have the energy to pretend they’re having a great day when it feels like their day has fallen apart and so much guilt is heaped on top of them. Of course, it also could be that the child has been totally off schedule for a few days and their week is a complete mess when it comes to being able to concentrate or follow directions. Those things require a lot of brain power and self-control, both of which might be lacking on a rough or busy week. So, it’s not because they don’t like you if they say “no.” They just need permission to say “no.” They need transparency to be able to reveal their hard week to someone and know they won’t be judged but will be encouraged.
2. Groups can bring out the best (and also the worst).
Groups of kids running around can be a nightmare for me. My son tends to lose some self-control and all attention and listening skills go out the door. I know that’s pretty typical in kids, but it’s even moreso in kids with APD. Hence, one reason why they sometimes receive the ADHD diagnosis. They have this strange ability to act out of control. Once you get their attention, though, they calm down. The tricky part is to get their attention since there’s usually a ton of background noises going on that they can’t hear you yell their name over and over.
Because of this, I’ve had these rough group experiences often. He tries so incredibly hard to obey, to be good. He wants to please so bad. This child tries his hardest to listen and usually doesn’t mean to hurt anyone ever.
One of the best things that we did as parents to try to understand what he was hearing in group circumstances was to listen to a simulation of what people with APD hear. Since then, I have learned that I most likely struggle with it, too. And it does sound so much like this simulation! If you’d like to get a tiny glimpse into their lives, listen to THIS! There is a lot of piecing together things, which sends the brain into overload. No wonder my son can’t hear me and why I have a hard time hearing others!
3. It’s not always a lie.
I cannot count how many times parents have come up to me, asking if a story my son told them was true. A lot of times, their bullet point story that they were given has so many holes in it that it sounds like a made up a story. I do appreciate the parents coming up to me and asking. I get frustrated when I have parents who just assume my child is a liar simply because they don’t understand how he processes the world. Now don’t get me wrong…my child does lie, but many times it’s a misunderstanding of what he’s perceived to be true or he has taken someone very literally. It could be a simple case of him jumbling up of the facts with no desire to put the story into order (i.e. first this happened, then this, then this, etc.)
So if you hear a story that just doesn’t make sense, please ask the parent to clarify. I can guarantee you that if they are like me, they will go home and walk their child through the story and help them with their communication skills. But please don’t assume the child is a liar. I know the child may not be yours, but you would be amazed at the difference you would make in a child if you stopped to listen and ask questions. The parents would be grateful that you took the time to truly know their child that so many labels as a “problem.”
Just because your child is friends with someone who has APD, please don’t exclude them from your group. They long to know they are accepted for who they are. They want to please and try really hard. Give them the benefit of the doubt and ask questions. Slow down and listen!