Parenting a child with special needs presents a unique set of rules and rewards. Actor Christopher Reeve, who played the role of Superman and was later paralyzed said, “Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.”
We Are Not Alone
According to the CDC, approximately 17% of children aged three through seventeen have one or more developmental disabilities. We might not find anyone with precisely the same symptoms, but lots of families have children who experience similar challenges. To the extent that it might be helpful, seeking them out might allow us to help each other, developing a network of mutually supportive new friends.
Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)
Individualized education programs (IEPs) are offered free of charge to families of children in public schools: a wealth of support services to help children succeed academically. Parents and guardians work with educators to customize and implement a flexible child-centered plan to support the learning journey.
Understanding Our Child’s Precise Needs
In some cases, getting our child’s behavior under control can be overwhelming. Connect with local professionals who are trained specifically in our child’s particular condition to gain insights. There are authors who have dedicated their lives to mastery of challenges associated with our child’s particular diagnosis. By immersing ourselves in all available resources, we can study the factual groundwork that has already been laid to optimally understand nuances, tendencies, motivations, and best practices. As we strive to be the best parents possible, knowledge truly is power.
Trust Your Instincts
A mother knows her child best. Doctors, teachers, and therapists are all important resources, but if we don’t feel that our child’s needs are being met, get a second opinion. While the professionals are experts in their specific disciplines, mom is the expert on her child.
Mom Needs Mom Time
Good mothers are constantly caring for their families. If we don’t take care of ourselves, our capacity to care for others is diminished. Mom cannot serve from an empty well. It is so important to specifically carve out personal time. It’s not selfish, it is needed. Rejuvenated by doing things we enjoy, we receive a sense of inner peace, a clearer mind, and a calmer heart, all of which help us be a better mother.
Being a mother to a child with special needs is part of us, but it is not our entire identity. When we focus all our resources on our child and their needs, it can be easy to lose sight of who we are. Neither we nor our children can afford for that to happen.
Do Not Judge Them
Children with special needs commonly perceive unfamiliar surroundings as unpredictable or even hostile. They might get angry, scream, cry, or throw a temper tantrum. As we parent them, we are also parenting their condition. It’s important that we maintain a calm and collected attitude; children develop into the totality of what they observe. With nurturing, deliberation, and a non-judgmental attitude, we can help to develop and build upon their strengths.
Every day, we navigate situations that ordinary parents might not believe are possible. We administer medications, manage doctor’s appointments, injections, infusions, and hysteria. We survive explosive tantrums and legendary meltdowns, all while somehow maintaining our sanity. We fulfill so many duties: mother, therapist, nurse, doctor, friend, and confidante—we are a superhero.
Super parents tend to be extremely busy. While everything on the schedule is important, make time to play, laugh, be silly, and just enjoy each other. Snuggle with them, read to them, engage their interests and the things that are important in their world.
Nobody is Perfect
It is difficult to choose between a rock and a hard place. Even with the most reliable intel and the very best intentions, every single parent makes mistakes. Torturing ourselves won’t make us feel better, and it won’t help us make better decisions. American author, Mary Anne Radmacher, wrote, “Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow!” Despite the extra challenges of raising a child with special needs, the successes can be that much more rewarding.
Children are all different; comparing them is almost never helpful. Sometimes, a well-meaning stranger asks us a question that has us backpedaling. Without proper context, some folks just don’t get it. All children grow and develop on their own timelines. Some skills come later in life; some are never mastered. Whatever the milestone, celebrate it with family and loved ones.
Whether or not our child has special needs, parenting is hard work. We must always do our best. American educator Rita Pierson wrote, “Every child deserves a champion—an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.”
“And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” —John 9:1-3 KJV
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PLEASE NOTE: As an Amazon Associate, Mothers Truly Matter earns from qualifying purchases. The information in this post should not be construed as providing specific psychiatric, psychological, or medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand the lives and health of themselves and their children. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist.