A Very Special Letter from a Parent:
Someone once told me that one’s children are theirs for a very brief time - as they grow they become the world’s children. This, of course, refers to the process by which growing children become increasingly influenced by friends, school and the broader social context in which they interact. As a parent of children with disabilities, I have become keenly aware that our children’s worlds remain smaller than typically developing children, and the lack of opportunity to enjoy and learn from broader social interaction hurts their self-esteem and interferes with the healthy development of social skills. Instead of soccer and baseball, birthday parties and sleepovers, my children primarily interact with therapists and teachers. Much of their interaction outside of the home lacks the carefree serendipity, creativity and playfulness that all children need.
Some of our children have struggled so hard to learn to walk, talk and read. Others are still learning these skills. When our children make small strides, we celebrate because we know how hard they had to work to gain a skill that comes so easily to others. Social skill acquisition is no different. Our children need to get out of the house and interact with others, and they need to feel successful so they have the confidence and self-esteem necessary to make friends and to live happy and rewarding lives as adults. The River gives my sons an opportunity to practice and gain social skills in an environment that encourages them and with people who understand when they make mistakes. The River also allows my sons to engage in the same activities and hobbies that typically developing children do and to succeed at them. My boys have learned to dance, sing, play the piano, act, and draw; and, most importantly, they think they are good at all of these activities! This is because no matter what skills and talent they bring to the River, they leave feeling like a star. (In fact, one of my sons has two prized ribbons earned at the River hanging from his bedpost that say, “I am a Star!!!!”). The River broadens their world and gives them a place where they can be themselves, practice the social skills necessary to interact in the larger social context, make friends, forget therapies and medications, expand their imagination and grow!!! On behalf of Carl and Anthony, I thank you for a wonderful year at the River.
Maureen G. Croft, PhD, MSW