The Top Ten Things We Didn’t Know or Expect When We Became Parents of Children with Special Needs

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7 year old boy lies in bed and plays with a laptopThe parent of a special needs child can tell you first hand that the journey is not the one they had pictured or had in mind.

I am a parent of two children with special needs and work as a professional in the special education field. I would like to share the top 10 things I didn’t expect would happen when I became a parent of children with special needs.

1. Sleep or rest when I feel exhausted would be a thing of the past — I am a person who needs at least eight hours of sleep every night. My body easily succumbs to illness or migraines if I consistently don’t take care of myself. When you’re a parent of a special needs child, exhaustion does not exempt you from the demands of the job. It’s the
call of the job.

2. Your children are not little adults — I had to learn to
accept that what other parents could expect of their children at a particular age, I could not expect from mine. When I would tell my children over and over again not to do something dangerous like open the car door while I was driving, they could not be trusted not to do
it again. It is a reality I have accepted, embraced and
learned to work with.

3. You might have to consider medication as an option — my husband and I are in the healthcare field and are very aware of the concerns of side effects and unknown long-term impact of medications. Yet, when your child is struggling to focus in school, their social life is a wreck, or your home life is in chaos because their behavior is creating stress beyond the norm, you eventually realize you may have a problem beyond what behavior management alone can control.

4. Social isolation can become an unwanted reality — if we are fortunate to receive one invitation to a family’s home, we usually never receive a second. A mother may like me and be interested in being my friend, but may avoid me because she is afraid to admit she does not want her children to play with mine.

5. I’m not the professional, I’m the Mommy — for all those, who like me are professionals in special education or psychology raising children with special needs, here is my message to you: you’re not the specialist, you’re the mommy! Your kids need you to provide unconditional love and positive regard for them, and to create a safe haven called their home.

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