As I mentioned in an earlier post, the only practitioners with whom my wife and I worked with any enthusiasm were Anat Baniel and her colleagues. As much as I admired her book, Kids Beyond Limits, I don’t know if we would have decided to spend the time and money to fly from Seattle to San Francisco to work with her directly if not for something she had said while I was interviewing her for Author magazine. I was writing No One Is Broken at this time, and mentioned that there is a great temptation for parents with kids on the spectrum to want to fix those children.
“There is nothing to fix,” she said, quite matter-of-factly. “You cannot fix what isn’t there. Human beings grow. Human beings evolve. You have figure out a way for (the human) to grow successfully—you can’t fix it.”
That did it for me. I didn’t always know how to best to parent Sawyer, but I did know this: I can’t fix what isn’t broken. Whatever strategies, philosophies, or approaches we tried would have to be based on the understanding that no one needs to be fixed. Anat was the first professional who was so clear that her work was about teaching and not fixing.
It is a profound distinction, especially given the types of children with whom Anat sometimes works. Sawyer’s challenges were entirely emotional. Even if you are someone who has never received a “special needs” label, it is easier to see yourself in a child whose behavior is erratic than a child who cannot walk or talk. Nearly everyone has at some point behaved erratically and understood that that erratic behavior was an expression of their erratic emotional climate, a climate that, like the weather, is defined by change. But not everyone cannot walk or talk.
Except that no one is born knowing how to walk and talk. We all had to learn to do those things. We do not call an infant who cannot talk broken. Yet when a person reaches a certain age and has yet to learn to do something – whether it is walking and talking, or moving out of their parents’ basement, or publishing a book – it is tempting to call that person broken. They would like to do these things, but they simply can’t, the same as some people can’t high jump seven feet. That’s life.
That actually isn’t life. Life does not care what we can and cannot do, it will seek its full expression through us whether or not we can talk, or live on our own, or publish a book. Life cannot fail. Sometimes Anat teaches a child to walk, but sometimes she does not. The child that does learn to walk has gained another means of expression; the child that doesn’t will learn to express himself or herself in other ways. That is life.
The only failure I have actually known in my life were my failed attempts to fix what wasn’t broken within myself. Yet the pain I sought to relieve in my fixing was only the discomfort that comes from resisting life’s full expression by deciding ahead of time how that life should be expressed. It was never my job to determine what form that expression must take, but simply to allow it through. In that allowing, I remember who I am, and life and I are in agreement once again.
If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.
I am the author of Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write with Confidence, and Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. Learn more here.