Today I’d like to talk about “the gap” – in other words, who “most people” are in ParentAbility. This has come up often enough that I thought it would be a good thing to discuss because chances are others are wondering about this too. Nobody really wakes up and thinks to themselves “I think I need a parenting coach.” So who are these people who are in my program? What drives them to seek me out and join ParentAbility? The answer is: most of the parents who are working with me have children who fall into what I call “the gap.”
What is “the gap?”
The gap is this chasm that seems to open up in the early intervention system when you have a child whose behaviour is disruptive, making it difficult or impossible for them to participate in family life, and has outstripped your personal abilities as a parent to manage but is “not bad enough” to qualify that child for a diagnosis. We also have a good number who are just extremely proactive and really identify with my philosophy and want to set their child up for success as best they can, and we also have a growing number of parents who have kids who do have a diagnosis and are looking to supplement the services their child is receiving publicly or via insurance. But most of my clients fall into this gap where they’re at the end of their rope and don’t know what to do anymore, and have been told to just “parent better.” This direction usually comes from their child’s doctor, which is EXTREMELY UNHELPFUL.
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Most parents are already doing the best they can.
These parents are already trying their hardest. Nobody is manufacturing their child’s behavioural challenges or hoping that their child will qualify for a diagnosis, other than parents who are drowning and are praying that a diagnosis will guide them on how to fix this problem.
There are two gates that keep most parents from receiving parenting support:
- Finances: most parenting programs are very expensive. These programs are run by experts and those experts deserve to be appropriately compensated for their labour. But this proves very difficult to access for most families
- Diagnosis: most child development behavioural programs are gate-kept by a diagnosis. You can’t access it by just signing up for it, you need to prove your child needs it by providing their diagnosis. The diagnosis also tends to alleviate that financial bit because once you have a diagnosis generally insurance will begin covering intervention to an extent, whether that’s socialized or not.
Where does that leave parents who have kids in that gap?
This leaves them with books and figuring things out themselves. Time is also something else that parents with challenging kids don’t have a whole lot of. Ask any parent of a young child how many books they’ve been able to consume lately – 9 times out of 10 the answer is going to be “none.” All young kids need a lot of support, and kids with behavioural challenges need about 10x the support. These parents don’t generally have a whole bunch of time to read a book and figure out how the theory presented in the book translates into day-to-day action. In order for a book to be commercially successful, it needs to apply to a broad audience, which means you don’t get to go into specifics! So even if they had the time to figure out which books apply to their situation, read them, and then figure out how they all puzzle together and what doing it looks like, they likely aren’t going to make much headway.
As an early interventionist, I saw many families stuck in the gap.
They were kids who were in preschool with my clients and the teacher would pull me aside and be like “Hey, is there any chance you could help out with so-and-so too? The parents are at the end of their rope but the doctor says there’s nothing wrong with him.” Or we’d be at a community class like swimming lessons and a child would have an epic meltdown and the mother would be clearly floundering, usually crying from embarrassment, and I’d be the only one who would step in and offer help. Generally once we got that child somewhat calm they’d pour out that they don’t know what’s wrong but that the doctor says “she’s fine.” Or I’d be online answering questions in Mommy groups and I couldn’t scroll my feed without 3 or 4 posts coming up about parents trying everything and nothing is helping and “their doctor says we just need to be firmer.” I can’t count how many times I’d hear comments about how “my child” (the child with a disability I was working with) was the best behaved child in the class, despite having a diagnosis. The reason I stopped working specifically with children with diagnoses, despite inclusion and their success being something I was and am still incredibly passionate about, was because often these kids in the gap were actually a massive barrier for my clients. It’s hard enough to be the only autistic child in the class without Mark over there constantly throwing things when he gets mad. It’s hard enough to have Down syndrome and learning to swim without adding to it that Cara over there is melting down and pulling all the attention of the instructor and your interventionist because they’re the only one who knows what to do! It started to occur to me that if we could just support these families stuck in the gap and teach them how to use early intervention strategies to parent their kids at home, we’d create much safer and inclusive environments for the kids who DO have a diagnosis.
That is how ParentAbility started!
ParentAbility is a low-cost, high-support environment where parents who are stuck in the gap can learn the same strategies we use in early intervention with kiddos who have a diagnosis, at home. It teaches you how to identify what is causing them stress, how to track that stress, how to create a routine and schedule that supports your child’s best behaviour, and how to build the skills with them (through play) that they need to successfully navigate the world, starting with school.
If you’re reading this and thinking “omg, WE’RE stuck in the gap”
Or “My kid has a diagnosis but I still feel like we’re stuck in the gap because our services aren’t addressing our home life” – anything along these lines, I’d like to invite you to check out my free workshop How to Raise Well-Behaved Kids Without Yelling, Shaming, or Time-Outs. It’s about an hour-long, but you can, and I totally encourage you to, watch it with a glass of wine while folding some laundry. It explains 3 main mistakes I see parents make that cause them to end up in the gap and my framework for how I get parents out of the gap.
I hope that was helpful for those of you who’ve been wondering if ParentAbility is for you. The free workshop is a great place to start, so I hope you’ll be able to catch that, but you can also shoot me a DM and we can discuss options. Getting out of the gap is possible, and it doesn’t have to be hard or take over your life. You just need to be doing the right things, consistently.