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When your child has special needs

April 20th, 2020
When your child has special needs
There are all types of special needs; some are following a difficult birth, others are genetic and many more have no known cause. The problems range from mild to severe and whilst physical problems are picked up at a young age – usually by parents or a health professional, others, such as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) might not become apparent until a child has reached school age. ‘Special needs’ is a blanket term that covers so much. The day that you learn that your child has special needs is both a devastating and life changing one.

Coping with your emotions.

You will experience a myriad of emotions and it is a little like grieving for the type of child that you have lost – one without challenges. There are feelings too of guilt; wondering if the problem was preventable and worrying that it was caused by the sport/odd glass of wine or million other things you did during your pregnancy. There is anger too and ‘why us’ is a frequent question and all these are totally normal to experience, before you can begin to accept the situation and feel a wave of protective love for your child and the ‘we’ll show them’ attitude kicks in!

Learning all you can about the disability/special needs

Luckily, life has changed so dramatically for the better these days because in the past, parents of children with special needs were shunned and were encouraged to keep their child at home. Society is much more accepting these days and many children today are able to enjoy life and go to a mainstream school, where they receive extra support in the classroom environment which is so good.

You may at times feel overwhelmed and isolated, fearing that you are the only ones facing these challenges, but you really are not! There are Facebook groups and many others where you will find other parents in similar situations. They will be only to happy to support you and give you valuable ideas and tips that can make life easier.

There are organisations too for a wide variety of special needs such as deafness, autism and Down’s Syndrome – amongst many others. Reach out and ask for help and you will be surprised and delighted by the warmth and friendship you will be given. You will probably find that there is a family facing similar challenges living just a few streets away!

There will be tough decisions to make

You will have to face some painful decisions to make, but you must always remember that you are making the ones that are best for your child. Don’t make an impulsive decision, but talk through the options with health specialists and other parents in a similar situation – and your child. Make the decision confidently and don’t go back on it. Now, it is true that you will not always make the correct decision, but there is no need to be hard on yourself. You are a parent not superman/woman and are not always going to get things right.
Get yourself plenty of help

You will have medical appointments to attend and the specialists will be able to give you advice about exercises/therapies and practical aids that will be useful. It will surprise you
to see how well your child engages with specialists in a completely different way and will probably happily do things for them that they wouldn’t do at home for you!

How you manage your daily schedule will be very personal as your child will have highs and lows, there will be times when they are in ‘melt down’ and you need to remain calm- whatever is said or done. You will be your child’s ‘rock’ and will provide all the praise and confidence they need, but you will also be the ones who get the brunt of their frustrations and insecurities too. Any parent of a special needs child deserves the largest medal because they really are the very best.

Try not to compare children.

This is such a difficult thing to do, but it isn’t productive because your child has extra challenges and will not meet all the normal milestones when they should. Even if you know someone who has a child with similar special needs, the children will not develop at the same time because they are very individual children.

Sadly, you will come across other parents who will comment on how poorly your child is developing and how surprised they are that your child cannot do X, Y or Z at his age. First, ‘bite your tongue’ and not reply and second, understand that these people are being insensitive in what they are saying simply because they do not know or understand, as they may well not have come across a child with special needs before. Brush any awkwardness to one side and explain your child’s disability clearly to them and teach them how they can help you – you will be surprised, often such people become the most supportive friends.

Celebrate milestones!

Being a parent of a child with special needs is hard work, but it is extra rewarding. If your child reaches even the smallest milestone it feels fantastic to both of you.

If your child cannot keep up with his peers with all the things they do such as climbing trees and football, find some other activities in which your child can excel. Swimming can be perfect for many – even if it takes longer for them to master it and more unusual sports such as table tennis, kayaking and archery all work well for wheelchair users.

Relax and enjoy your child

Daily life will be like a whirlwind at times, especially if your child has regular medical appointments and mobility challenges so even the simplest task is time-consuming. Build some time regularly into daily life to simply just relax together and spend precious moments lying on a rug in the garden or snuggled on the sofa with a book. It is important for both of you to relax and enjoy each other’s company.

Look after yourself.

You must look after yourself/ yourselves too as caring for your child can be very draining and it is important that you remain as ‘you’ and don’t get swept away by all the demands
made on you. Build up a support group of friends and family members – such as your parents- who are happy to spend time with your child whilst you go to the hairdressers or beauticians. You might simply want to take a break from the home environment and read the daily paper sitting on a park bench. Don’t forget each other – plan a regular date night with your partner and get someone to ‘babysit’ for a few hours – you will feel so good getting dressed up and going out to enjoy time together.
Don’t over compensate.

It can be very easy to try too hard with your child and spend hours making the smartest packed lunches, dressing them in the most immaculate outfits and taking them to so many activities. Lovely though these things are, in reality, all that will happen is that you will exhaust yourself. Treat your child just the same as other parents do theirs and that will be fantastic.

If however, you feel that you are not being listened to by the specialists caring for your child and that they are not meeting your child’s needs, you are quite within your rights to ask for a second opinion because after all, they may be specialists, but you are the expert on your child…..

Chrissie x

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