Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Calling for help

It is National Children's Mental Health Awareness Week, and I have recently made a point, repeatedly (and had opportunity to witness it), that while we are trained to call for help when there's a problem, too often, we don't know how to give help when a truly dire situation arises.

Recently, we have had to call for help. And so this post is two-fold.

First, I want to thank the mental health workers out there who really care.

The ones who pick up the phone and don't tell you to fasten the seatbelt when your five-year-old has unbuckled himself while you are driving on the parkway and is trying to open the door or climb out the window. (HELLO! Should I turn around while driving 65 mph and try to accomplish this feat? Or should I pull over to the shoulder where the kid can SUCCESSFULLY open that door and dart across three lanes of traffic moving at 65 mph? What exactly are the viable options here?)

This is a sincere and heartfelt thank you for the ones who listen to the crazy talk of the severely distressed and translate it for those who love them, who help us to understand things like the importance of sensory needs in resetting the formal operations of the brain. The ones who understand that certain dietary needs can change a kid from plum loco to a happy child (maybe not that quickly, but with a definitely noticeable impact). These are the ones who understand what it is like to fear for your child's safety on a daily, hourly, or moment-by-moment basis and who dedicate their lives to changing these circumstances.


You would think that, when children are truly in pain, truly in crisis, truly crying out for compassion, the average person would reach out with kindness.

This is not the case.

But this is not a post about blame. I do not think people hate kids, hate kids with special needs, or hate people in general.

I think that they simply don't know how to love them.

For those that are unfamiliar with treatment plans and the real work of therapy (the data collection and systematic retraining of behaviors), the second part of this post is to help you understand just a little bit about what these therapies are like.

Below is my attempt at a treatment plan for myself, a treatment plan to help my own listening and response when I hear those cries for help. Of course, in a perfect world, I would do these things all the time. But this is a treatment plan, and I know that I can't. It is a reminder of how far I need to go that I am really struggling to reach "6 out of 10 opportunities."

Preparing myself to hear and answer calls for help from my neighbors/those around me (i.e., what would loving my neighbor as myself look like?):

Goal 1: Listening
  • 1A: In 6 of 10 opportunities, I will listen to what they say without interruption (other than the noises to show I am listening).
  • 1B: In 6 of 10 opportunities, I will refrain from responding with a judgmental attitude as expressed in words like "good," "bad," "appropriate," "should," "shouldn't," or "have to," BOTH IN REGARD TO MY NEIGHBOR AND/OR OTHER NEIGHBORS THAT MAY HAVE BEEN IMPLICATED IN SUCH STORY.

Goal 2: Changing my heart
  • 2A: In 6 out of 10 opportunities, I will pray for my neighbor before offering advice to them or opening my mouth to comment (or condemn) the behavior of someone not present.
  • 2B: In 6 out of 10 opportunities, I will try to walk away from my neighbor citing one concrete thing that they have taught me or that is good about them.
  • 2C: Once per day, I will think of one way that a neighbor has shown me something positive that I would like to incorporate into my own life.
  • 2D: Once per day, I will remind myself that my neighbors have the same needs for love and acceptance that I do.

Goal 3: Answering the calls (both silent and voiced)
  • 3A: In 6 out of 10 opportunities, as I am aware of them, I will actively try to meet my neighbors' needs (for quiet, cleanliness, etc.) for our neighborhood in ways that are not restrictive for them or for me.
  • 3B: In 7 out of 10 opportunities, my neighbor has expressed a need and it is in my power to satisfy it, I will do so without thinking so much about the cost.
  • 3C: In 6 out of 10 opportunities, I will be brave enough to step forward when I see a problem to offer help--even if I need to be told what to do or even if I can only make a call or listen to a problem--rather than let my neighbor suffer alone.

These are the things I need to work on myself. Perhaps they will resonate with you as well.

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