PRAXES is made up of three core components. The first is parent self-care. It is based upon the premise that parents must nurture their own mental and physical health first before they can take care of their children. With so many parents, their priorities are their job, their children, their family, the home, etc. The person they take care of last is themselves.
Studies show that parents of children with special needs, whether they be mental health, intellectual, or physical, have higher levels of stress than other parents. These stressors occur in everyday life, and if not properly addressed, lead to increased illness and physical problems.
The first four sessions after the initial engagement and evaluation sessions are: Stress Reduction, Grief and Loss, Assertive Communication, and Support Systems. The goal is to help the parent develop health habits, learn how to grieve for the loss of their child from being “normal”, find ways to assert themselves with family and others, and to increase the number of family and friends who help them with their family.
The second of PRAXES’ core components is parent awareness. This component uses the old adage that knowledge is power. Most of our parents have great understanding of their children’s everyday problems, yet they need some context of how their functions in comparison to others. To provide this information gives them more perspective of how their child is “different”, not better nor worse, than others.
For many of our parents, they have fears about their child and their conditions. Most are based upon myths or partial information that they have. For example, rather than being told their child is “bi-polar” and being stuck with a diagnosis which means nothing, they are better prepared to help their child if they know about the disorder, its signs and symptoms, its treatment, medications as part of treatment, and how to help their child at home, in school, and in the community.
The three sessions of this component are: Child Development, Mental Health Education, and Parent Advocacy. After these sessions, the parent has a better understanding and acceptance of their child’s needs, how to encourage services for them, and how to combat the stigma the child faces with family and the community.
The final core component in the PRAXES modules is parent ability. This component comes after the parent has had a better understanding of their own behaviors and their child’s needs. The behavior problems of children with special needs goes far beyond what a parent might experience with their other children. So the usual methods of parenting don’t work as well. Not because the child doesn’t want to listen or obey, but because there are more barriers to them complying. Whether it be developmental, neurological, biochemical, or even environmental, a child’s ability to learn new behavior needs more structure.
The key to helping children improve their behavior is a structured program. Parents need to help the child behave in the real world. This means the “tough love” approach; i.e., that children should follow rules, receive consequences for their actions, but also be praised and rewarded for following their instructions. When parents say, “Why should I praise them for something they should know how to do?” the answer would be because we all do better when we hear positive comments than negative ones.
The three sessions in this section are: Promoting Positive Behavior, Clear Expectations, and Solving Problems. The parent now has taken a positive role in helping themselves with their well-being and is using positive skills to improve their relationship with their child.