Friday, June 17, 2016

Teach him how to fall

When our son first arrived home from Bulgaria at the age of 4, we started his PT in Alabama. The PT asked what goals we wanted her to to work on with him.  We told her, “We want you to teach him how to fall.”  This might seem like a strange request for the PT.  There are so many other skills we could have asked for her to list in S’s goals.  As we continued our conversation with her, it made perfect sense.  

As a 4 year old, S was very impulsive.  He didn’t realize that he needed to slow down a little bit. He had a reverse walker and was ready to roll!  The problem came when he fell in the hallway or off of the curb.  When you use a walker, you have both hands on your walker.  When you fall forward in a reverse walker with your hands still on the walker, you catch yourself with your face. Unfortunately, this happened more than once multiple times.

They worked on that skill.  He learned how to fall without using his face to catch himself.  We were so excited with this new skill that we would praise him when he fell.  Imagine the reactions of other people observing us as S fell in the store; praising the boy with a walker for a “good fall” instead of running over to coddle him.  Don’t judge!  He worked many hours to make that fall look that good, and he didn’t catch himself with his face!

As S progressed from a walker to crutches, his falls became different and more frequent. Crutches are much less stable than a walker.  S learned how to handle different terrains and floor types.  

Watching him fall

The natural instinct for those around S is to try to catch him if he falls.  That is problematic at this point in his life. It was different when he was younger...and lighter.  He’s not heavy, but he is like a dead weight when he is falling.  We have had to tell people you need to let him fall.  He knows how to do it; if he does, he will get back up because my son is not a quitter.

What does falling look like now?

As a young adult who is in college, falling looks different for our son.  It is more figurative than literal. Entering adulthood brings more challenges into life.  College comes with challenges - meeting deadlines, getting your work done, studying, turning assignments in, making choices about how to best use your time.  Many of these challenges are magnified due to S’s ADD.

My husband and I gave S quite a bit of guidance first semester as he was learning his way through the process.  He has been given the tools he needs to be successful.  He needs to choose to use them or he is going to fall.

Watching him fall

As I stated above, “the natural instinct for those around S is to try to catch him if he falls.  That is problematic at this point in his life. It was different when he was younger.”  At this point in his life, he needs to learn from his choices.  It doesn't mean we can't holler out an occasional warning about a "trip hazard"; however, there are many times my husband and I need to stand back and “watch him fall.” It’s not easy, but he has the tools to catch himself...or get himself back up.

I will be on the couch with chocolate….reading my book....reminding myself it is okay if he falls. He will get back up. 


  1. Mary:

    Thinking of these awesome Bulgarian roses I saw in a Global Entrepreneurial Project in

    That's the thing which got me when I watched BEYOND THE ORPHANAGE in June 2000.

    The Romanian kids didn't know how to handle various surfaces which had been the crux of my own childhood like sand; grass; stone.

    There is a good article on Medium about kids and students and being perfect.

    And yet it was an instinct honed and developed over literally millions of falling opportunities.

    I hope you too have the tools to get you back up. The couch is one of them.

  2. It's so hard for me to let Bethany fall! You've done a great job teaching S how to fall and get back up!