When Manipulation in a Special Needs Child is a Good Thing

Nathan has been manipulating people lately. For any typical child–like my other one–this could be quite frustrating. For him, I find it absolutely hilarious…at least for now.

He is cued in that if he is super smiley and affectionate with his therapists he can distract them from making him work. It’s very subtle and usually starts with him staring deep into their eyes until they acknowledge that he is trying to get their attention. Then he’ll lean in for a hug. Or, he’ll randomly start making kissing sounds in the middle of some exercise he no longer wants to do.

Even if he decides to protest something he’s working on in therapy, it ends in laughter. First, he will scowl and shake his head “no.” Then, he switches from a frown into a great big smile, which sends us all into the giggles.

The loving side of his personality may serve as a great asset for him in the future. He is beginning to make his way into people’s hearts with his free-flowing affection and desire for connection to people.

I am in awe of the things he is learning about relating to others. He shows me again and again that there is a greater level of cognition going on inside than you can see on the outside. He is winning people over and getting what he wants, even though he can’t talk.

Not only is he winning over therapists, teachers, caregivers, and friends but he continues to change my heart as well.

These are the things no doctor could tell me about Nathan in the beginning. All I heard was the different, devastating challenges and complications of his syndrome. I’m slowly discovering who my child really is, the sweet little boy buried within this syndrome.

How beautiful it is to freely give away love and affection to others. It brings joy and connection. My friendly, non-verbal son is teaching me to love better. So maybe what’s on Nathan’s agenda is more important than the things on mine. And in a sense, I’d say manipulation is not such a bad thing after all.

Watch for it at the end of this video.


My book, Beauty in Broken Dreams: A Hopeful Handbook for the Early Years as a Special Needs Parent, is now available on Amazon!

Also be sure to check out my list of Favorite Books on Disability!

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