My child is different, now what?

It has been more than a year since my last post, which is way too long but it has been an extremely busy year. The year has been swept away with life in general and constantly being on top of my son’s needs. There have been so many new experiences and insights during the year, which I hope to share in time.

I have also embarked on a new career. I am now a supportive counsellor with a special interest in parents on a journey of specialised needs. I have been doing short informational talks on various topics around special needs. These talks involve a lot of research and time. They are proving to be very beneficial, and I think they would make interesting articles for my blog. Therefore in the interests of time and sharing – some of the articles I post will in fact be based on previous talks that I have given.

I look forward to continuing on this journey with everyone.

My child is different, now what?

Receiving a formal diagnosis or having friends, family or a school teacher tell parents that their child is different or even “there is something wrong, with your child” – the message can come in so many forms, is at some stage met with mixed emotions by all parents. The message may be surprising, shocking, devastating, even relieving. But it probably also comes with immense confusion as to now what?

• What do we do?
• Where do we go?
• Who can help us?
• Do we have to change schools?
• What about medication?
• What does our child have?
• What does that mean?
• What is the prognosis?
• How will we manage financially?

Sound familiar. The list is endless. The list is overwhelming.

The journey of specialized education needs is easier for some than others. This depends on the case and each parents own way of internalizing and dealing with the experience. The road is not an easy one, but it is also not all bad. It is a different journey to the one any parent envisages for themself, their family, their child. It is filled with more bumps, often bigger bumps and potholes – some of these bumps and potholes simply creep up, causing stress and even pain or anguish. The repeated crashing into these bumps and potholes can wear one down, but some much-needed TLC, can give one the strength to continue to navigate. As one becomes more aware of the terrain the journey becomes so much easier.

Through reading and interaction with others; here are some tips for making the path a little easier:

1. The most important – TLC – look after yourself and your marriage.

2. Create a good support system; this may not always be family.

3. Someone to talk to honestly about your child, and your feelings about your child.

4. Remember you are your child’s parent. Do not become their therapist or teacher, try not let their needs be all consuming.

5. A good supportive school system makes the world of difference.

6. A doctor you can trust.

7. Not exposing yourself to too many conflicting opinions and too much information. The Internet can be a blessed source of information but also a curse.

8. Take joy in the small wins. This journey will be made up of many of them. A parent who has a child with ADD – knows what a win it is when their child is able to sit long enough to concentrate on homework without a fight. A parent with a child with autism knows how liberating it is when their child is finally toilet trained or when they stop running away from you in a public place. A parent with an anxious child knows the joy of when their child is able to walk into school all by themselves for the first time. A parent of a child with dyslexia knows the pride they feel when their child reads their first sentence without a mistake. Never take these small wins for granted – they are the steps to bigger successes.

9. Lastly trust your gut.. Remember when your baby cried in the beginning, and you were never sure what they wanted. Soon however you knew what every cry meant, what your baby needed and wanted, when no one else did. With special needs some parents lose this instinct temporarily. Some parents may feel, how did I not know. Some parents may feel it very difficult to relate to their child, because they are so different. But parents are also the best champions for their children; no one will fight for your children like you will. The fact that you are trawling the Internet looking for help and support is already an indication of this.

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