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Wednesday 21 July 2010

The time to let go

"Spirally upwards"
by Susie Mallett, June 2010

When to let go

In a short communication with Aenna last week we began discussing letting go and learning when to. A mum said to me a few days later that she learnt to let go of her disabled daughter with the decision, when she was three years old, to send her to an integrated kindergarten.

There are many meanings for the phrase "learning to let go" and many reasons why we should do so. There are also many ways to learn this.

Lots of parents talk about learning when to let go, about learning when to loosen the apron strings. With each stage of a child’s development parents have to know when to take a backward step, when to let go a little and then a little bit more. They discover a way of giving their children more and more freedom as they learn to be independent.

Parents learn to do this from their children, from observing other parents and children, and they learn a lot from practice, by actually living life and from working out together as a family what is best.

Parents of children with a motor disorder also need to learn when and how to let go but there are not always the places available for these children to discover and enjoy their independence in. Places where they can escape from their parents but still have the assistance that they require because of a motor disorder. They need places to be with their friends without their parents being always with them. They need places and people where their special needs are catered for.

This sort of letting go, the letting go that takes place between parents and their children and vice versa was not actually what Aenna and I were discussing, although it really all comes down to the same thing. Sometimes we conductors just like parents have to let go psychologically and at other times physically. More often than not we all need to be prepared, and to prepare our clients, to do both at the same time.

Aenna and I were talking about knowing when to take a finger away from a child and when not to. About when to turn your back and when not to, about when to walk away and not turn your back and when the time has come to simply walk away.

We talked about how we know when we can leave a child to sit alone on a chair at a table, with an extra chair placed at the side or without.

How do we know when to leave a child sitting on a stool or standing in the parallel bars? How do we know when we can leave a child to stand up from the floor alone at the wall bars with shoes on, and then maybe on another day without? Or when we can leave someone to walk alone pushing a stool, using sticks or with nothing at all, just hands, body head and legs to balance with?

How do we know on which days we can let go and on which days we should not.

Aenna said where did I or where do we learn this? Because learn it we do.

How and where and from whom do we learn?

It is a continuous process. We learn it from ourselves from our experiences. We learn it often from parents and carers, we learn can it from other conductors.

Most of what we learn, we learn from our clients.

Oh how I enjoy those days when I can turn to a child and sy that I am off to help so-and-so. “Now you are on your own, you are looking after yourself” I say.

Those days when I tell people that they are responsible for their own welfare, I suggest that they hold tight, concentrate, step carefully, watch their own feet or hands or cup or whatever it is they are doing. That the job of taking care is put into their own hands for a few minutes.

Or those days that I say to a child's friend “Hold her hand and help her to feel safe until I come back”. Of course I know that the child does not really need the help physically but children are always glad to know that there is a friend nearby, sharing the success and giving a bit of security.

These days are good for everyone, but how do we know when to do it?

We need to know our clients well and we need to trust our feelings and be open to observing the slightest changes.

I have a little athetoid client. I know precisely when it is time to let her go in specific activities, and now she knows too. Often she knows better than I do. She also knows as well as I do that perhaps yesterday she stood up at the wall bars alone but today she cannot because she is tired, because it is cold or because she is thinking about something more important than standing up! Perhaps she is off to a party or she is thinking about the picture she wants to paint.

Even though I usually know, I always ask before doing something whether she thinks, that she can do it alone today or not. This way she begins to learn what her own body is capable of in different situations.

To a diplegic child who walks independently I can say: “Look out for your feet, look where you are going, please do not fall over!”

I know which days it is OK for him to remove his bike helmet and on which days I should stay nearby.

When working with adults it is no different. They too need to experience the thrill of doing something alone but also to feel the security of help being near as and when it is needed, but not to feel someone is hovering over them. Sometimes it is only a case of saying as to the children: “Look after yourself, you are on your own”. A few words are perhaps needed from across the room so that the concentration can be switched up a notch or two, with regular reminders too from other group members.

It is very important from the very beginning, from playing with a baby through all the developments of crawling, sitting, rolling, standing, walking, eating, drinking, swimming, cycling or painting, that child, teenager or adult clients all feel that they are responsible for their own safety at different stages. We must give them all the freedom to be in situations where they can be in charge of their well-being, and make situations so secure for them, but with a sense of freedom too, that we can move away and say "Take care of yourself, you are doing it on your own".

Learning to let go

We all must learn it. All of us, parents conductors, carers, partners and clients. We must all learn it from each other, from conductors, from our clients, from their carers and parents, and our clients from all of us too. Another spiralthat is spiraling upwards like life!

In the end we must feel it. Sense the right moment to let go and the right moment to hold on and, equally important, how much of both.

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