A Day in the Life of a Program Mom

Written by Sabrina Stone, July 12, 2011

(Used with permission)


The first four months after going on a NeuroDevelopmental program are the very best months to accomplish change. It is new. You are in just enough pain from the problems you are having with your program child to insure that you are motivated to get the job done. So, you approach it with energy and enthusiasm. You accumulate all the necessary supplies, organize your space, organize your time, and you are ready for the first day.

This is where some of the hope gets a little bruised by reality. The first day is confusing. You don’t know how to do anything. You have to go back and read the handouts on each activity again and again. You may even have to revisit the video clips a few times. You discover the organization you thought would work does not work. You have not established a muscle memory of how to move the flashlight, tracking item, tactile tool, etc. You suddenly realize your life is going to be ruled by this little timer beeping at you every one to five minutes. On top of this, depending on the level of your child’s maturity or sensory involvement, you may have dragged them through each activity with only mild whining (from them and you) or you may have had to endure many screaming fits.

Thus, at the end of the day, what was supposed to be a one hour to two hour program has taken eight hours to accomplish. And, having changed tasks every few minutes all day long, as well as taking care of lunch time, a load of laundry, and various interruptions from other children or the telephone (really, you should let the answering machine get that), you have a mild feeling that you know what it is like to be ADD yourself. “Hmmm,” you think, “This was just the first day, it will get better.”

Well, it does get better. By the time you are into your 2nd or 3rd week, you have managed to reduce the eight hours to four hours. You now know how to do all of the activities. But, your life is still ruled by a timer and your child may still be reluctant to go through yet another day of program. After all, these things are hard things. If they were easy, they wouldn’t be on your program. Your ND is pushing and prodding your child’s brain to develop in new ways with new connections. This is really a lot of work, for you and your child.

Then, after the daze of two or three weeks of program activities, you turn to find that your house is a disaster. The laundry is piling up. Cobwebs have appeared on the light fixtures. Dirt is accumulating in all the wrong areas. Dinners are becoming a bit more basic with pizza making its appearance on the menu more than once during the week. You realize the other children have been watching too much television, or even better, are now gaming addicts.

How did this happen? What do you do? How do you balance all of these competing demands?

At this point you realize you must rearrange your life to get the job done. If you do not, you will spiral into ever increasing chaos. You must change many things about who you were before program came into your life. You discover, to your dismay that prime program time is before 12 noon each and every day. If you wait until after lunch, you simply will not accomplish anything. The answering machine, voice mail, and e-mail will have to wait. You have to rearrange doctor appointments to one day a week and only in the afternoon. Various activities, even good activities like piano lessons and ballet lessons, may have to be cancelled altogether. That class day you participate in as a home school parent, or those wonderful after school activities you have your child in as a public school parent, are detrimental to getting the job done. Even the Bible study you enjoy one morning a week is cutting into prime program time.

So, you have gone through the first two to three weeks at a sprint. Now it is time to really settle in for the marathon that is program.

This is where I have struggled for years. The issue is balance and priorities. I am keenly aware of my concern for my program child, but I am also concerned about all of my other children, my husband, my friends, my extended family, my church, my community groups, the state of my house, my health, and any number of other things in my life.

Honestly, the greatest single motivating factor to starting program and continuing to get it done, is the answer to this question, “How great is my pain over my program child’s development as compared to all of these other competing concerns?” If the pain is great, the motivation is great. Understand that for the majority of program children, significant accelerated development will only happen with much input from you or someone else doing the job. I have seen my son go from a screaming child on the autism spectrum to a beautiful, calm, well rounded, and articulate boy over the years we have worked with him. I know this would not have happened without the program activities.

However, the answer to, “How great is my pain”, has shifted through the years. When my house is simply too chaotic to even walk from one room to the next, that does become the priority. At these points, I have either chosen to take a day off and clean, or I have hired people to do the job for me. There have been times where an extended family member’s health has caused me to take a break for weeks at a time. I have elected, from time to time, to participate in outside activities which I deemed important for my entire family as a whole, rather than stay home and do every program activity.

There are other times where I have circled the wagons, stayed home, and accomplished almost 100% of every activity listed on my program sheet. I have even resorted to paying my other children to get the activities done. These times, when I have had a clear focus, are the times when I have seen the most change happen for my child, but it can be difficult to sustain this pace.

My final word of encouragement is to take care of yourself. You are the one who needs to get the job done. In an airplane, when there is a drop in pressure and the oxygen masks come down, the parent is supposed to put on their mask first, before they put on their child’s mask. Same principle applies here. If you do not take care of yourself, you will not be able to accomplish change for your child. If you have health issues, ask your ND to reduce the program to essentials so you can accomplish some goals, and get your health stabilized. If you need to have a moment of quiet, hand the children over to your husband and leave the house. They will probably all be in one piece by the time you get back.

I failed to follow this advice the first few years of doing program with my son. So, when the pain from his situation lessened as he improved, I suffered a severe crash from poor health and exhaustion. I know where this will end up if you do not balance correctly. So, I urge you to take care of your own health. Raising children is a marathon, not a sprint. Likewise, raising a program child is a marathon with extra weight strapped on. But, the rewards for accomplishing the task are eternal.