Learning to Wait

Children with special needs, whatever those needs may be, often need additional time to process information given and requested from them. This is therefore true for many children that have visual impairments. When we tell them something as simple as “goodbye,” they may need many seconds (or longer) before they process what we’ve said and respond with an appropriate “goodbye” of their own. This additional processing time is often referred to as “wait time.”

Eddie certainly needs “wait time” consistently. When we ask him a question, we have to wait ten seconds or more before we can expect a response. This used to be much longer when he was younger. If we forget to be patient, and we re-ask the question, the “wait time” starts up all over again. It’s like the timer is reset every time we push him and don’t allow him to think at his own speed.

This is true not only for conversations, but also transitions. We need to tell him five minutes in advance that we are changing locations or activities. Then, we have to give him at least two more reminders before the move takes place. If we don’t allow him this processing time, he falls apart when we take him from a preferred activity.

Sometimes, we joke about rushing him out of bed, into clean clothes, through breakfast, and into the car without giving him anytime to process. Because we run late and we move fast, we expect him to move fast. Then, we can’t help but think he is in the car wondering what the heck just happened to him. Asking himself, “Why is my bed moving?”

I don’t know about you but “wait time” just doesn’t fit at all with my personality. I like to give the appearance of having limitless patience, but it is only for show. As I patiently address my children, including my son who is blind, I’m often reeling on the inside about what I need to do next, what they need to do next, or even wondering how I can move them even a little bit faster.

Today, as I was driving home from work, I was being tailgated by somebody in a much bigger hurry than myself. I thought, “This is what Eddie feels like.” He’s happily moving at his own speed, enjoying the scenery, and we’re annoyingly riding his bumper. I hate it when people drive right on my tail. I’m guessing Eddie hates it, too. I’m going to try to remember that the next time I feel myself pushing him to move at my speed. Instead of racing, I’ll try to slow down and enjoy the scenery, too.