Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Mile Stones

Person 1: What's got him so upset?
Person 2: He's got a bad case of mile stones.
Person 1: Oh, yeah, I know how that hurts. You just feel so useless when your mile stones are acting up.
Voice Over: Mile stones can be good for you, but excess mile stones are harmful. They sap away the pride in your achievements and interfere with caring for yourself. A related condition is Shoulda Syndrome. Shoulda Syndrome is characterized by thinking 'shoulda done this' 'shoulda done that'. If you have Shoulda Syndrome, mile stones might be the underlying cause.

I heard of a disabled kid, about 6 or so, who had just recently been toilet trained and was going around excitedly telling strangers 'no more diapers'. I cringe to think of their reaction. Oh, most people probably were polite to her, but I doubt they thought of her the same way as a 2-3 year old saying the same thing.
In disability rights, I've often heard people saying that disabled people shouldn't be put on pedestals for doing things that are no big deal for disabled people. To a certain extent I agree, particularly if it wasn't really that hard for them either. But we can go to far the other way, and that's not good either.
I want the right to feel proud of my achievements, even if it's something like managing to touch the net when throwing a basketball instead of missing completely, o catching something thrown directly at me. Or successfully traveling alone by bus on an unfamiliar route. Just because those things are easy for most 18 year olds shouldn't mean I can't feel good about achieving those things, because they are an effort for me.
Just because one child takes his first steps when most other kids are running and jumping around doesn't detract from the effort it takes for that child, and it shouldn't detract from that child's sense of accomplishment. Too many delayed kids learn that no matter what they achieve in the areas they're delayed, it's always insignificant compared to others. This doesn't have a good effect on their self-esteem, nor does it encourage them to use the abilities they do have. In fact, it's a recipe for perfectionism - discounting what you did well while emphasizing mistakes.
Now, as many disability advocates have pointed out, praising people excessively for minor things isn't good either. In general, I think praise should be based on how much effort it actually took. It's not that hard for a paraplegic to sit and drink a beer, so it's not really praise-worthy, and praise for that is condescending. Similarly, many gifted children suffer from being praised for easy thngs too much - it may seem impressive for them to solve a math problem intended for a child 3 years older, but that doesn't mean it's a real achievement for them. Following the same rule, it is praise-worthy when someone does something that did take effort, like me catching a ball or getting safely to a new destination on the bus, or that one little girl using the toilet consistently enough to stop wearing diapers.
PS: My Dad thought up the funny conversation in the beginning. He was pretending milestones were something like kidney stones or gallstones.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Refuge said...

I love this! Thank your dad for the public service announcement at the top, which made me laugh. I agree, we have a right to celebrate achievements, whenever they come, however they come.

(My son started sitting up on his own at age 7. It was a good skill for his health, and a long-overdue milestone on various developmental charts, but those reasons wouldn't be enough to get excited about. No, we celebrated it because HE did. He was clearly excited about the new views and sensations and choices it brought to him. And if he's excited, I'm excited for him.

3:58 PM  
Blogger Ruth said...

Excess milestones- LOL That's a great take on the topic, thanks.

2:55 PM  
Blogger rbach said...

I agree that we should celebrate these milestones (or Miles Stones, as you put it ;-).

With our daughter, we ignore the "developmental chart clock." When she recently learned to sit up on her own (after seeing all her peers doing it at preschool), we clapped for her. She smiled, appreciating the parental acknowledgment, and continues to do it regularly now.

She has acquired a new skill. So what if she did it at three-and-a-half years rather than at the statistically-driven Average Age For Most Kids. We're happy that she's developed this new skill, particularly because she chose to work on it herself.

2:58 AM  

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