Last weekend Rod and Bev Wilson gave a talk at the SAAC (St Andrew’s Autism Centre, Singapore) and shared their experience on having needs as a caregiver. The couples’ adopted daughter, Jessica, is now 29 and working at an autism friendly company in Vancouver. Diagnosed with hydrocephaly, high functioning autism, frontal lobe damage and precocious puberty, which began at the age of two, Jessica did not have not have an easy time growing up and neither did her parents. Looking after a child with extremely violent behaviour came with a heavy emotional and physical price; which Rod and Bev addressed in their talk. Here are some highlights from their talk on The Special Needs of Caregivers of Those with Special Needs:
Our special need to embrace the mystery of the situation-
- We as society have a need to turn mysteries into puzzles that can be solved because maintaining the illusion that we can explain everything gives us the upper hand. However, pain requires us to reject both religious and scientific answers and instead embrace the mystery our culture so fervently resists. (Palmer, P :Let Your Life Speak). There is much pain in bringing up children with disabilities but our own sanity calls for us to occasionally give in and embrace the mystery surrounding the issues.
Our special need to embrace the true meaning of disability or special needs-
- Just because someone is talented by the standards set by society doesn’t mean that the person who isn’t does not have dynamic potential for intellectual functioning. (Kaufman, S.B. Ungifted: Intelligence redefined)
Our special need to understand cure and solution-
- As a professor first and caregiver second, it took some time to understand that there was no need to constantly try and fix Jessica. Respecting her for who she is, was difficult to stomach, but would inevitably lead to less stress on both the parents and child.
Our special need to understand the true nature of stress and deal with our own vulnerability-
- As humans we have limited resource for adapting to stress and after repeated demands, adaption energy is depleted leading to the acceleration of ageing and illness. Rod and Bev ran out of energy soon enough and it nearly led to a divorce, thankfully couple therapy brought them back on the right track. One must remember not to undervalue themselves and overvalue doing things for others as this could lead to depression or worse.
Our special need to cope with the insensitivity of others-
- Not everyone will be able to put themselves in your shoes and while we can be civil towards them, there is nothing valuable in keeping them in your circle.
Our special need to keep going-
- Building a tolerance for ambiguous and uncertain situations enable you respond while to stress caused by unforeseen circumstances. Having spiritual values also assists in pointing you in the right direction whatever medium it may be.
Rod Wilson is a professor of counselling and psychology at Regent College, Vancouver and authored Counselling and Community and How Do I Help A Hurting Friend and co-authored Exploring Your Anger and Helping Angry People.