by Vidya Guhan, NACD Developmentalist and Coach
As a coach, this tends to be the number one concern that I address with parents. As a parent, I always come home from an evaluation feeling good, feeling like I have a plan and can make some real progress. Then I receive my program, and I feel even better– someone has put together for me exactly what I need to do with/for my child for the next three months to really help her learn and achieve her goals. And then…minor detail…now I actually have to get the program done.
So after more than 12 years of doing the NACD program, here are some things I have learned about the process that helps me and other families be successful:
1. It starts with intention and total commitment. The parents who get program done are the parents who believe it must be done (no ifs, ands, or buts) – and fully expect it to work. And I mean non negotiable – like wearing a seatbelt, eating, sleeping, or getting an education. Partial commitment – doing program if we have enough time today, or when everything else is done (school, homework, social events, after school activities, other therapies etc.)– does not work as well because there are always going to be other things competing for your attention, time, and resources.
Our program is about investing in your child’s future now– really pushing for highest level of function. If you believe it must be done and it can be done, you will get it done. There have been many, many parents who have gotten program done against all odds – single parents, working parents, grandparents, adoptive parents, parents dealing with serious illnesses, parents dealing with financial issues, parents who do not have internet, computers etc., parents who do not speak English, parents with special needs themselves, etc. There really is no barrier to getting program done—just decide you are going to do it, and you will!
2. Organization and planning: Once you have decided you are going to get program done, you need a plan. The families who consistently get program done are those who schedule it into their day in some way–using the NACD planner, a fifteen-minute schedule, a daily checklist of activities, index cards with program activities written on them, and timers that go off every fifteen, twenty, thirty minutes. Your planning can be as flexible or rigid as you need it to be to suit your and your child’s personalities. Do what works; but have a plan. Your coach can help you find the best way to schedule/organize your time, as well as alternate plans for the days that plan A does not work. It might take you a few tries to get it just right; so be willing to fine-tune it till you find a system that works best.
In addition to organizing your time, you need to organize your materials. Look over your program as soon as you get it and identify any books, flashcards, apps, software, CDs, etc. that you need and order them. If there is something you are not going to be able to get, let your coach know. Set aside time every week to prepare new books, photos, tapes, flashcards as per your program directions – i.e., 5 new, 10 new per week, etc.. This will ensure that you have the best possible input for your child each week.
3. Manpower and time: As the parent, you are responsible for getting program done; but you certainly do not have to do it all yourself. Think of yourself as the supervisor and manager of the program, and learn to delegate some of the work. Reach out to the grandparents, aunts and uncles, sibling and cousins, friends and neighbors. Look for volunteers from high schools, colleges, churches, girl and boy scouts, big brother and sister programs, etc. If possible, hire some help – young teen girls usually have great intensity and do a good job.
Really evaluate your own situation and personality and see the area where you would like the most help.
Is it getting materials made? This is a great one for the well-meaning relatives who live far away but love your child and want to be a part of his or her life. Give them a list of specific things you need- therapeutic video showing structured play, self help skills, modeling language usage, tapes with stories, general info, math facts, etc. Tech savvy siblings can probably help with things like finding new iPad apps and making flashcards and language photos.
Is it in getting specific program activities done? Do not overlook the power of siblings in this area – in many cases, they can do program activities better than you can because they have great intensity and make everything fun. Train your volunteer or hired help to do specific activities the way you want them done. Your coach would be happy to check their implementation.
Is it in getting other housework done so you can focus on getting program done yourself? One, you can get help. Two, you can simplify where possible (e.g., cook ahead and freeze, invest in slow cookers, make one dish meals, etc.). Three, get all your kids up to speed on chores and delegate. Anything your children can do, they should do – laundry, dishes, trash, cleaning etc.–so you can do program.
A final note: In most of our families, one parent does the majority of program for their child. While this may be the case, the most successful families are those where both parents are fully committed to getting the program done, and the other parent contributes by helping with childcare, chores and errands, preparing materials, and most of all, giving each other well deserved breaks.
4. Facing setbacks: Now that you have decided to get program done, you have organized your time and materials and lined up your troops, and you have been working steadily for a while. All is well until you start hitting some predictable roadblocks. You or your child may have started to get a little bored; or worse, you may be in a rut. In other words, the intensity for program activities starts to drop. It happens to all of us at some time or the other. You also run into illnesses, allergies, and other physiological issues that throw everyone off track. Moving, birth of a sibling, passing of a grandparent, and other life events happen, and your program gets derailed.
First off, know that it is all right. Take care of yourself, your marriage, and your family, and then do program – that has always been our philosophy. Call your coach/evaluator and keep them posted. They are very experienced in handling these temporary setbacks and can give you strategies to make program fun and fresh again, or streamline the program to fit in with your current life demands. At times like these, it is especially important to know that we are there to help you and your child. The program is individualized and designed to meet your needs at any given time. It is almost always better to treat setbacks as temporary, and work with us on a maintenance level program till you are ready to roll again, than to drop it altogether.
5. Renew your commitment. Finally, this is an important but often overlooked step. Many of us start out highly motivated and are successful with getting program done and done well in the short term. The challenge is maintaining it long term. First, keep your evaluation appointments – see your evaluator every three months and get a new program. It is important for you to get objective input, see the progress your child has made, discuss any concerns, and to get a fresh start regularly. Child development is not a short-term project – there is always the next milestone to work towards. Next, keep regular contact with your coaches – my clients who make it a point to touch base with me at least once a month tell me that it is always useful. They always learn something new, get a new idea, strategy, solution, or tip, and they get either the pat on the back or kick in the pants they need to stay on track.
Finally, parents, set aside time once or twice a month to meet with each other and discuss your child’s progress, any concerns or questions, and how you are doing with implementing program. This process of self-assessment will remind you why you are doing program in the first place.
The bottom line: Decide to get program done, organize your time and materials, get a team and village together, take setbacks in your stride, and repeat! The real secret is knowing that program is a very positive experience for a majority of our kids and families – children thrive on stimulation and attention, and parents feel empowered as they see their efforts succeed. Moreover, know you are not alone, and that your coaches and evaluators are right there with you every step of the way. Now, let’s all go and get program done!