10 powerful Tips for Parenting A Child With Special Needs
Are you trapped in the vortex of parenting special needs kids?
Are you walking a daily tightrope to help your special needs child function better?
You prowl Google and Pinterest searching for help him to lessen the hardships he has to endure as a child who has special needs.
I am so pleased to have a guest post by Kay of mamainthemix.com.She passionately believes that parenting a child with special needs is tough but doable. Head over to her blog to learn how to be an effective and confident parent.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how hard do you think it is to parent a child with special needs? If you say 11. I’m pretty sure that’s a modest number.Parenting a child with special needs is by far a venture that not everyone is cut out for. Click To Tweet
SPECIAL NEEDS KIDS
KidsHealth describes a child who has special needs as:
any kid who might need extra help because of a medical, emotional, or learning problem. These kids have special needs because they might need medicine, therapy, or extra help in school — stuff other kids don’t typically need or only need once in a while
LIFE FOR A PARENT OF A CHILD WHO HAS SPECIAL NEEDS
It’s expensive to raise a child with special needs, which people don’t even think about. Emotionally it can be a struggle, but financially it’s really rough.
Elena Delle Donne
Parents of special needs kids often feel as if they’ve been mowed over by a tractor.
There so many chores attached to raising a child who, through no fault of his own, needs extra care.
The schedule of feeding, cleaning, exercise, massage, and medical appointments is a punishing one. Coupled with all of this is the normal day to day tasks of organizing and running a home.
Being super organized is vital when raising a special needs child.
I’ve created a Power Hour plan that has really taken my organization up a notch.
Click the graphic below to boost your time management skills.
RELATED: HOW TO INSTANTLY RECHARGE YOUR LIFE
It’s no wonder that parents of special needs children are riddled with emotions such as:
Parents often feel as if their lives have been hijacked by their child who has special needs.
Check out Lisa’s post The Battle Fatigue of Special Needs Parenting for a deep dive into the life of a parent of special needs kids.
THE MUST HAVE MINDSET FOR PARENTS OF SPECIAL NEEDS KIDS
A child with special needs will inspire you to be a special kind of person.
You need to change the way you see yourself. Think of yourself from now on as one of THE CHOSEN ONES.
I truly believe that you were chosen to be the parent of a special needs child because YOU are able to handle it.
If you learn anything from this post, learn that.
Remember that, and let it sink in….YOU ARE STRONG ENOUGH TO HANDLE THIS.
Don’t ever forget it, because when the walls are closing in on you, and the laundry is piling up, you will want a little encouragement and you will want someone on your side.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH SPECIAL NEEDS CHILDREN AND PARENTS
I have encountered many families with varying levels of “disability”.
My main focus has been to help parents with children who are suffering from Autism, ADD/ADHD, Down Syndrome, Sensory Processing Disorder and Executive Functioning Disorder.
As someone who has been in the trenches with families of special needs kids, I would like to offer some advice.
Try to implement them and trust that they will make a difference.
Until you have a kid with special needs you have no idea of the depth of your strength, tenacity, and resourcefulness.
I am on your side, and I am here to help.
Please take everything I say as honest and truthful advice for those parenting a child with special needs.
This post is for the parents who :
- – Have just received a diagnosis and have no idea what to do
– Need to be empowered with additional parenting skills that complement their own
10 POWERFUL TIPS FOR PARENTING SPECIAL NEEDS KIDS
1. Grieve if you must, but move on
Getting a diagnosis of any kind can be overwhelming, scary, sad, and/or depressing.
All of which are perfectly valid feelings. For someone to tell you they aren’t, would be wrong.
If that’s how you feel, that’s how you feel.
What you should do is cry, and grieve appropriately (meaning no harming yourself and others) and then move on.
With all my tips, though, there will be no need to grieve for too long.
Your life will inevitably be different, but it doesn’t have to be worse.
It’s only worse if you make it that way.
Try not to harp on the things that you cannot change and focus on improving your situation.
Let the serenity prayer be your guide.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
2. Focus on what your special needs child can do
I don’t mean to sound insensitive but your situation is not the same as a child without special needs.
Avoid thinking about all the things your child can’t do, or won’t ever be able to do. I recommend focusing on all the things that your child can do.
Write down a list of all the things that your child is able to do. Turn it into a colorful poster and leave it somewhere visible.
Never forget this list of CAN Dos because that’s when you start to spiral into a deep tunnel of “why can’t my kid do this, and why can’t my kid do that”; “I just wish that my child could do X”.
These negative thoughts need to be banished.
Remember that you ARE strong enough, and you WILL get through this.
Create a few affirmations and recite them daily to boost you when things get really tough.
3. Get Informed
Investing in yourself to make you better as a parent.
For example, if your child is diagnosed with Autism, I would recommend getting educated in all things Autism.
Learn about ABA, learn about the proper therapies and the proper diet and whatever else a child with Autism may need.
I’ve even seen some parents go back to school just to get educated in special education so that they can be better parents.
Of course, this may not be realistic for everyone. But it is a sure fire way to be prepared for anything that life may throw at you.
For those of you who aren’t able to pay thousands of dollars to go back to school, I’d recommend signing up for free classes and asking your pediatrician for any programs aimed to help parents in your situation.
Whatever your situation is, never give up.
Which brings me to my next point…
4. Never Give Up on Yourself and Your Child
I don’t think any parent starts off with the intention of giving up on their child.
Sometimes you feel trapped like you can’t breathe and you yearn to escape the burden of parenting a special needs child.
You feel like no one else understands and no one can help you. And then you start giving up.
You start being lenient on the things that you shouldn’t be lenient on and then deprioritizing what you actually should be prioritizing.
This again is just a spiral, until eventually you fall apart and the entire family structure falls apart.
Do yourself and your family a favor and don’t let it get to this point. Seek out help before it gets this bad.
5. Advocate for Your Child
Of course, all parents advocate for their child, but when you’re educated in their disorder/condition you will be that much more effective.
As parents of special needs children, you will most likely have to sit through hours of parent/teacher meetings, IEP meetings, doctor appointments, and therapy sessions.
During this time, you will be your child’s voice.
If your child’s best interests are not in the forefront, it’s because you haven’t given them a voice.
This applies to verbal or nonverbal children.
Whatever the case might be, advocating for them is what will help them succeed in life.
You might as well get on it sooner, rather than later.
6. Don’t sweat the small stuff
Is it a big deal if your kid can’t ride a bike or kick a ball?
It just means that they’re different, and they have different qualities/abilities.
The same applies for at home behavior. Children climbing a couch and taking out all the pots from your kitchen cabinets is not important.
It has no relevance to how well they will succeed in life. If anything, it could be a positive thing.
It shows that they are curious and adventurous, two qualities that are actually very important for success.
Often, stressing about the small stuff is what causes parents to feel overwhelmed and trapped.
Because they can’t control the big stuff, they try to control every other detail, and then their lives become one big bubble that they’re trying not to pop.
Don’t let this be you! Let it go!
Read more about this in Sensory Mom ’s post Are you an Angry Special Needs Mom?
7. Seek Out Help
Just because you feel like no one understands, doesn’t mean that there aren’t people who are willing to help and give you some relief.
In Massachusetts, there are many programs that aim to help parents with respite services/ babysitting.
I recommend that you get information on these kinds of services.
It will be a relief for you and for your family, because a healthy parent is a happy parent, and a happy parent is an effective parent.
Seeking help for yourself and your family can also include individual therapy or family counseling, or both.
Again, look to your pediatrician, a social worker or even a family advocate to guide you in the right direction.
Never stop seeking out help for financial assistance. Look into programs that assist with matters like your own and see if they have financial assistance or government-sponsored aid.
Write letters to your senators or governors if need be.
8. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed
Be encouraged by Lisa’s post, 9 habits of happy, strong and successful special needs moms.
Your child might do something that others may not understand.
You may be shopping at the grocery store when your child suddenly starts screaming and throwing items out of the cart because the music is too loud for them.
You may be at a wedding and your child starts running down the aisle while the bride and groom are saying their “I do’s” because they don’t understand the social aspect of being quiet during this big moment.
You may even have to take your child to your doctor’s appointment in which they damage half the items in the room because they don’t like small locations.
Or you may have a special needs child who flaps his hands, slobbers or makes “strange” noises.
All of these may make you feel uncomfortable in public. But I’m here to say it’s okay.
Most people, kind and decent human beings, are not going to care. In fact, they may even want to help.
The other type of person who asks you to discipline your child is really not mad at you or your child, they just have anger that they haven’t sorted out.
There’s no reason to be embarrassed by your child’s actions.
If it’s something that you don’t personally love, then teach your child to do better.
But don’t let what others think prevent you from teaching your children appropriately.
If you’re a little confused by what I mean, let me explain it further…
As a behavior therapist, I used to teach appropriate behavior. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t an overnight success, but eventually, we did see immense improvement.
A part of my method was to “wait things out”. Which meant that sometimes, my students/clients would tantrum for hours straight.
As unorthodox as it may seem, eventually the tantrums and their durations would decrease to almost nothing.
I literally had children who would tantrum for 2 hours at a time every 3 hours. Which meant that they were calm for about 1 hour a school day/session.
It was intense, but I didn’t let the fact that other people were looking at me, or rolling their eyes at me, affect my decisions and my actions.
I ignored the looks and the pleading to make it stop, and I followed “behavior therapy” protocol.
By the end of it, my students were not tantruming as intensely or as long.
For more tips on how I did that, you’ll just have to follow me and my blog. And no my method does not include “setting it and forgetting it”.
9. Find your Community
All of my tips pretty much have the same theme.
I’m recommending that you seek out help, advocate for your child and also to find your community of trusted friends and family.
If your family doesn’t understand, limit your interactions with them. If they’re constantly judging and/or criticizing you, then they’re not benefiting you in any way.
What you need is people who understand your situation and who will offer solutions, not contribute to the problem.
So how exactly do you find your community?
Get on social media, use hashtags and reach out. Meet up in person if possible. Create a Facebook group of your own, so that those who are in your situation can comment, help or be a listening ear.
10. Be Positive
One of the biggest takeaways from this blog post should be that you continue to be positive.
Positivity can go a long way in making you a better person and an effective parent.
When parenting a child with special needs there’s simply no room for negativity.
Being negative is not going to make the diagnosis go away, and it’s certainly not going to offer any solutions.
I advocate for staying positive and actively affirming yourself.
Tell yourself you are capable and tell yourself you are worthy.
Tell yourself whatever you have to, to make it another day. Because that’s really what life is.
It’s about living life one day at a time and being more positive with every passing day.
This quote sums up the joy that comes with raising a special needs child.
Sometimes even the greatest joys bring challenge,
and children with special needs inspire a very, very special love.
As special needs parents we don’t have the power to make life “fair,” but we do have the power to make life joyful.
What greater gift could we give a special needs child than that?
Do you have any tips to share about raising a special needs child?
Share them in the comments below.
Kay is the writer behind mamainthemix.com, where she educates and empowers parents with their parenting skills. Her focus is on parents with special needs children or challenging behaviors.