In the spring of 2016, I spoke at the national conference of the Tourette Association of America. After my presentation Kirsten described an experience her son Henry had had two days earlier.
Henry has Tourette syndrome (TS) in addition to ‘High Functioning Autism’. This young man is 13 years old and was invited to give a three-minute talk at a Congressional Luncheon on Capitol Hill describing what it is like to have TS.
His story begins the night before his presentation. His mother suggested that he practice his talk, thinking it would be helpful for his confidence. He agreed but as he began practicing his stuttering tic went into full force. He gave up and “shut down”. He lost confidence and told his mother he couldn’t do it and stopped. His wise mother suggested they get some sleep and try again in the morning.
The next morning his mother said to him “Today is going to be an amazing day. You have the opportunity to speak on Capitol Hill.” She encouraged and supported him and helped him regain his confidence. She helped him understand that he could do it and then, with a mother’s love, she reminded him that if he found it too overwhelming, she would stand up with him and finish his talk, if necessary.
When it was time for him to speak Kirsten stood next to her son, ready to help if needed. He started to speak and his stuttering returned full-blown, but he kept going and finished his talk. The courage that he showed was visible to all who were there. The whole audience rose to a standing ovation in his honor.
This mother’s actions were so courageous. No parent wants their child to fail and every parent in this situation would worry, but this mother went farther by helping him prepare and then supporting him by being ready, if he needed her. Supervised risk taking is an important resiliency skill we can use to help our children when they need it.
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