Are Too Many Instructions Confusing Your Special Needs Child?



The day I got to know that my daughter had Down syndrome and would only lead a semi independent life (as described by the doctors) lot of my dreams came crashing down.  Some of them had my son and her playing, running, fighting and her being on her own. It’s been almost 6 years and so far she has surpassed all my fears and is surprising me every day. Having said that I would also like to mention that this journey has been quite eventful and all of us have evolved in many ways and have learned things we never knew existed. There have been incidents and events that have helped us look at life in a different light. One such incident happened yesterday.

The date for the sports day was announced a week before. I was excited and worried at the same time because this was going to be her first event in the school and though the school technically doesn’t believe in the competition, parents do, and that was troubling me a little.

Right up to the D day, the practice sessions were good and there were no calls from teachers (sometimes we mothers like to have imaginary troubles, even if there are none or I thought so) I was getting ready to go and attend the sports day when the phone rang… It was her special educator stating that Aarshia is throwing tantrums and she would like me to reach a little early…I realised my imaginary troubles were already being heard by the universe and now the manifestation is happening!

Hurriedly!! I got ready and reached the school grounds only to realise that the event was already about to start. Aarshia was standing in the front row with the special educator right beside her. She waved at me to join her. I was apprehensive because I knew that other parents were sitting at their dedicated area and Aarshia would be the tantrum queen once she realizes that two women are standing just for her but I had no choice because the poor special ed thought I had some magic wand.  And this time universe heard me again. Aarshia was at her worst best and was already irritable. I knew she was missing her dad as he had left just a day ago to return to Bhutan but that can’t be the only reason. The inaugural dance and the first activity were good where I could talk her into doing them. I told her to dance so we could send the pics to her dad. But as the day passed she grew restless, the special educator was trying hard, very hard to make her do things which she is very happy doing otherwise but today was one of those days when everything goes wrong. 


I was still confused about her behaviour and paused a little to think why Aarshia was not being her usual self, when I heard the Spl. ed talking. I suddenly realised that she has been talking nonstop. Giving instructions continuously, one way or the other she was speaking constantly and she must’ve been doing that even before I reached.
Anybody would’ve gone crazy listening to all those instructions. The next few minutes went into thinking how to approach her without her feeling bad but I had to do it so I walked to her and requested her to try not giving any more instructions and see if that works. She looked at me like I got turned into an alien! And said “look Mam, we don’t have time for experiments, my senior is here and I don’t want Aarshia to not participate. I asked her to relax and take a deep breath. I also told her that I am ok even if Aarshia doesn’t do anything but  I would not like her to be told and instructed as that is making her more irritable. She didn’t completely agree with me and to be honest, I didn’t know if that was the right thing to do! I just wanted Aarshia to do whatever she wanted to and not push her into things if she was not comfortable. 
I regretted my decision when all Aarshia wanted to do was hold my hand and not participate. I took her with me and walked to the next activity area where she had to balance a small cushion on her head and walk. I told her if she doesn’t want to be here, we’ll go home right away and I will not be angry. This mantra worked!! She went and sat with her class, still holding my hand. She came last in the race but she did the task perfectly and everybody was cheering for her. She threw the cushion where it had to be thrown and unlike other kids, she walked not ran. I would not lie but the corners of my eyes were wet after seeing everybody cheering for her. The teacher announced on the mic that if kids want to learn the right way of doing things they should learn it from Aarshia!!
The next one hour was quite demanding. Aarshia participated in all the activities even though she could not finish one where she had to climb on a rope ladder but apart from that she did reasonably well. You know the best part!! There were no first or second prizes. Everybody had to participate, every single one of them without anybody being better than the other. All children did it enthusiastically. Some even held Aarshia’s hand to help her and cheered for her.
It was a great day. I believe even if Aarshia was not in her best mood, she still did things which she could’ve easily avoided. But she participated, tried and set out a great example for parents who were looking at both of us with curious glances. Most were of sympathy while some were of encouragement. The best moment…When the sports coach came to give her a high five after she finished a race on a bouncy horse. 
What did I learn? A lot!! Patience, sportsmanship, more listening and less instructing, importance of participation and above all the power of inclusion!!
Aarshia and Mama





  1. Perfectly said Deepa…thnks a lot