(A version of this post was originally published in March of 2016.)
If I make allowances for certain behaviors or painstakingly engineer my special needs daughter’s environment with the hopes of avoiding a meltdown, am I accommodating her or spoiling her?
Schools regularly make accommodations and modifications for students with disabilities.
For those of you who may not understand the difference between an accommodation and a modifications, let me explain!
In a nutshell:
An accommodation is a change in the environment, curriculum presentation, or equipment that will make it easier for students with disabilities to learn the same material as his or her peers.
A modification is an actual change in curriculum and tests.
Modifications and accommodations are commonly made for those visible physical disabilities in schools and in the workplace and are usually not a problem for teachers and employers to understand and agree to, such as the following:
- Installing wheelchair ramps for our special loved ones who use wheelchairs.
- Providing special parking spaces for people who have mobility issues.
- Providing glasses for our those who’s eyesight is less than perfect.
- Providing hearing aids for individuals who are hard of hearing.
- Learning and teaching our deaf students sign language.
- Allowing children who don’t see or hear well to sit near the front of the class.
- Letting a child who has reading difficulties listen to a recording of their required reading assignments.
Sadly however, when the accommodations and/or modifications our special needs kids require are for reducing or eliminating undesirable behaviors such as meltdowns or sensory overloads, all the sweet and kindly compassion of others goes right out the window
When the accommodations and modifications children and even adults need are for behavioral issues, they are often accused of being spoiled or faking their disability!
- How bold to ask to be provided with a quiet, calm sensory retreat space at school!
- Heaven forbid if parents don’t force their children to share their beloved “security” teddy bears or favorite toys with others!
- How ridiculous for parents to do their best to avoid meltdown triggers and situations that cause their children stress at home and in the community!
- How indulgent for parents to provide their special kids with a highly structured and predictable environment in order to spare them from experiencing overwhelming anxiety.
- How dare parents do their best to prevent their children from becoming sensory overloaded!
- How arrogant for parents to ask teachers, caregivers, and family members to try to understand the reason behind their children’s undesirable behaviors before passing judgment and punishments on to their special needs kids.
Why is it that when a disability is not visible or the need is not a physical modification to ensure accessibility, then the disability is not considered to be real and the modification is perceived as being indulgent and unnecessary?
Why is it that when the special accommodation required is to reduce challenging behaviors, then the accommodation is considered to be spoiling the child and letting the child get away with being a selfish spoiled brat?
When my daughter, Bethany is exhibiting challenging behaviors it’s more often than not an indication that she is under duress or that she is suffering somehow.
She doesn’t have the ability to express when a situation is upsetting her, when she’s had too much sensory stimulation, or even when she is feeling sick or hurt.
When Bethany is suffering in some way, it usually manifests as anger and/or aggression.
Therefore her distress may appear to others as aggressive or bratty behavior.
But, just as any loving, compassionate parent would do anything within their power to relieve their child from physical suffering, so will I do anything within my power to relieve my child from suffering due to an unseen, misunderstood reason or a reason that she is incapable of expressing.
I will do whatever I need to do if I believe it will help Bethany achieve a better quality of life, even if the modification, accommodation, or change that I choose to make for her may seem indulgent to others or is perceived by some to be spoiling her .
What do you think?
Am I accommodating or spoiling my special needs kid when I consider her challenging and distressed behavior to be suffering and seek to do everything within my power to compassionately relieve her from her suffering rather than punish her or force her to buck up, get over it, and comply?