In this day and age we all question ourselves about everything. I’m not saying that self reflection is bad, but there is also a time when you have to go with your gut. Hopefully this post will help you figure out how to turn your instincts into challenge detection devices for your kids!

The most common thing I hear from parents of folks on the spectrum is “How do I know I’m doing the right thing.” I ask myself that one, and I also hear it from my wife, and my answer is always “our son is learning and growing. That is the right thing.” I’m a pragmatic type in that I measure right or wrong by outcome. If our outcome is positive, if our son has learned a skill or grown as a person or we as a family are more functional then we did the right thing. If it goes the other way then we didn’t.

That’s where instincts come in. I’m not suggesting you go to your IEP team saying “well I think something is wrong.” They’ll shoot you down in a heartbeat and probably make you feel like an idiot. However, what you can and should do is examine that feeling. If you, as a parent, feel in your gut that something is wrong then it probably is. The hard part is turning that feeling into fact.

Bureaucracies run on data, and our schools are bureaucracies. So you get a gut feeling something is wrong. Next, figure out what area you think is wrong. Is it sensory regulation? Are there new behaviors that you can’t explain? Is there new language that you have never used? Does your child focus on the negative repercussions of his actions? Is there (and I hate this word) defiance? Is this behavior new? When did it start? If its not new, when did it happen before and when did it go away?

That will give you an indication of where to look. If you’ve had the behavior before then you can dig into your files and produce some data on when you had it before and what happened. Use those prior events to find similarities in your current situation. One of the things we do when we get aggressive behavior is think back on when we’ve had it before. Its rare, with our son, to have it so its easy to pinpoint when its happening. For him, when his program is wrong he acts out aggressively. In the past when we have changed his program he has also stopped acting out.

If its new behavior then you have your work cut out for you. What has changed? Is there a new transition in school? Was there a substitute? It can even be as odd as whether or not the school is using a new cleaning chemical. (We had that happen to us and it took us a full 4 hours of conversation with teachers and other staff to figure it out.)

I think we, as parents and caregivers, know more about our kids than anyone. Our instincts are usually right. We still need to do the work to back them up, but our subconscious gives us clues about the world and it behooves us to pay attention.