An open letter to parents of special needs children:
Dear Mom & Dad,
You are amazing! You may not realize it yet but you are. Life probably hasn’t worked out the way you expected it to but you can pick up the pieces and make something wonderful out of them. Summon every bit of courage you have and keep moving forward remembering that courage is not the absence of fear but action in the face of it.
Look for help and support in your community, it is probably there, not always easy to find but if you search for it, it will be found. NEVER EVER be afraid to ask for help. Sure, the answer you get may sometimes be no, but do not let that deter you. Keep asking, keep looking, keeping dreaming of the best life your child could possibly have and let that be a driving force. Your child needs you to be their champion. You may not be the expert on their diagnosis but you ARE the expert on your child, you know them better than anyone else does. So do not be intimidated by service providers, their’ experience, their’ fancy degrees. These people are usually fabulous resources and can be great advocates for you and your family, but if something isn’t working, say so. If you need direction, answers, support, do not hesitate to ask for it. Use what is helpful and ignore what is not.
The way you see your child’s special needs and react to them, will set the example for how others respond to your child. The teachers your child comes in contact with probably are not experts on your child’s diagnosis either, and that’s okay. Educate them about what your child’s special needs are, how they affect your child. Let your child’s teacher know your child’s strengths and weaknesses. If you have strategies that help with their weaknesses, share those. You may have had to set aside the expectations you had for your child when you discovered their special needs, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have hope. Inform the people who work with your child what your hopes and dreams and goals are for them. Inspire them to believe in your child as you do.
Your job raising a child with special needs is probably one of the most difficult things you will ever do. But it can also be one of the most gratifying. Remember to take time for yourself, yes I know this can be difficult to arrange but do whatever you can to make it happen. It is not a luxury that you can’t afford; it is a necessity that you can’t afford to do without. You effectiveness in your child’s life is largely dependent on your emotional well being which requires rest and breaks and time away occasionally. Do your best to build a support group around you that can help you with the needs of your entire family. Make time for your spouse and if you have typical children as well, do everything you can to spend one on one time with them, and teach them to love and care for their sibling. If you are so wrapped up in the needs of your special needs child that your spouse and other children feel their needs are ignored or overlooked, they could feel resentful toward that child. Help them to want to be a champion for their sibling as well.
Know that God sees you and loves you beyond all measure. God didn't give you a special needs child as some form of punishment. In fact, the opposite is true, God has entrusted you with a very precious child and He is there for you to lean on. Trust Him, let Him be your peace and your guide and your strength. Allow Him to show you great & mighty things in the journey of special needs parenting and remember that His idea of great & mighty things are often quite different than ours.
I know, it is all so overwhelming and seems difficult to balance and manage everything. But you can do this. Believe in yourself, rise to the challenge, don’t give up, don’t feel guilty for needing help, ask for it! Do not be intimidated by people who do not know your child as well as you do, make your voice heard. Hope for the best, dream big dreams for your child. You CAN become the champion your child needs you to be!
A parent who has been there.