Dignity of Risk

At Troy Center for Transition, we understand that the transition into adulthood can be very stressful and confusing for both our young adults and their families.  It is a time when students must learn to try new things, to be more independent and to find their place in the adult world.  Families must learn to support and encourage their children to take acceptable risks without fear, while still protecting them.  It is a delicate balance and one not easily achieved.  We would like to share with you a few thoughts from a man and woman who said it beautifully...

Dignity of Risk by Robert Perske, Hope for the Families

  • Overprotection may appear on the surface to be kind, but it can be really evil. An oversupply can smother people emotionally, squeeze the life out of their hopes and expectations, and strip them of their dignity.
  • Overprotection can keep people from becoming all they could  become.
  • Many of our best achievements came the hard way: We took risks, fell flat, suffered, picked ourselves up, and tried again. Sometimes we made it and sometimes we did not. Even so, we were given the chance to try. Persons with special needs need these chances, too.
  • Of course, we are talking about prudent risks. People should not be expected to blindly face challenges that, without a doubt, will explode in their faces. Knowing which chances are prudent and which are not - this is a new skill that needs to be acquired. On the other hand, a risk is really only when it is not known beforehand whether a person can succeed...
  • The real world is not always safe, secure, and predictable. It does not always say "please", "excuse me", or "I'm sorry". Every day we face the possibility of being thrown into situations where we will have to risk everything...
  • In the past, we found clever ways to build avoidance of risk into the lives or persons living with disabilities. Now we must work equally hard to help find the proper amount of risk these people have the right to take. We have learned that there can be healthy development in risk taking... and there can be crippling indignity in safety!

- Reprinted from the New Mexico Development Disabilities Supports Division - Meaningful Day


The Autism Site
A new autism book, The Loving Push, encourages parents to gently and lovingly nudge children on the spectrum to perform activities outside their comfort zone. This book is written by Dr.Temple Grandin, a leading spokesperson on autism, as well as psychologist Debra Moore.
In the book, Dr. Grandin gives an example of how her mother encouraged her to step outside her comfort zone; she urged her to go to the store to get lumber for something she was building.  Grandin's mother had deduced that her child's motivation to do the project would help her overcome her anxiety. She was right. Dr. Grandin encourages other parents to do the same for their children, gently pushing them to reach their full potential.

The Loving Push tackles a number of subjects, including therapy for children and teens with autism; the importance of sleep, exercise and chores; and the absence of vocational classes in schools. It also has useful information on how parents should lovingly press children on thespectrum to learn skills such as driving.

Dr. Grandin advises parents to role-play potential situations, such as interactions with law enforcement officers, to help their child learn what to do to reduce misunderstandings. She also tells parents to share struggles and mistakes from their own life, explaining how they overcame them to provide a model for their children.The authors do not underestimate the challenges that parents may face when they try the strategies in the book. They recognize that structure, routines, and rituals are preferred by most children on the spectrum and that change can trigger a meltdown. In spite of this, the authors insist that gently pushing and encouraging the child is both beneficial and necessary.

Some Questions to Think About: What if.....

Reprinted from the New Mexico Development Disabilities Supports Division - Meaningful Day

  • What if you never got to make a mistake?
  • What if your money was always kept in an envelope where you couldn't get it?   
  • What if you were never given a chance to do well at something?
  • What if your only chance to be with people different from you was with your own family?
  • What if the job you did was not useful?
  • What if you never got to make a decision?
  • What if the only risky thing you could do was act out?
  • What if you couldn't go outside because the last time you went it rained?
  • What if you took the wrong bus once and now you can't take another one?
  • What if you got into trouble and were sent away and you couldn't come back because they always remember you’re trouble?
  • What if you worked and got paid $0.46 an hour?
  • What if you had to wear your winter coat when it rained because it was all you had?
  • What if you had no privacy?
  • What if you could do part of the grocery shopping but weren't allowed because you couldn't do all of the shopping?
  • What if you spent three hours every day just waiting?
  • What if you grew old and never knew adulthood?
  • What if you never got a chance?

-Linda Stengle, Laying Community Foundations for Your Child with a Disability