Raising a Child with Special Needs
Guest article written by Felicity Dryer
Although there are many challenges when raising a special needs child, there are more resources, better laws and an overall greater level of acceptance in not only specialized programs, but mainstream schools and communities now than there ever have been before.
Being selfish when your child relies on you for so much may sound crazy but the truth of the matter is that no parent can be a good parent when they completely lose their identity. Therefore, from the onset, make time for yourself. Whether it’s a yoga class, playing a musical instrument, exercise, season tickets, or anything else that let’s you escape into your passion, do it. As a parent, you likely care greatly for your child, but making sure to do those few things will make you happier and a better, more attentive parent.
Your World is Vast
Feeling alone in your specific situation is a common pitfall that can cause all sorts of difficult emotions. Reaching out may not be everybody’s personality but it works. Facebook and other social media platforms are good places to peruse and see that although everyone’s particular symptoms may not be the same, the feelings and struggles are similar. Sharing with and helping one another is by far one of the most important aspects of raising a child with special needs. Find and connect with these people either online, offline or both. You are not alone.
Therapy as Play
Separating your child from the many doctors and therapeutic appointments to engage in some actual play time can be highly beneficial. Experiment with different play activities to see if your child is a fit. You will know once you see the immense joy and concentration they apply to their therapy as play. It can be physical, such as swimming, running, wheelchair sports, shooting archery or even something like sled hockey. Or it can revolve around things like chess, baking, sewing, board games, model building or any other number of hands on hobbies that occupy their mind beyond the clinical.
Join them as much as you can for a priceless parent-child connection so many seem to take for granted.
Know Your Rights
There are numerous laws that may apply to your situation if needed. With such a powerful legal network at your fingertips getting the most for your special needs child has never been easier. Here are some to further research if necessary.
- IDEA – The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act – This law guides how states, school districts, and public agencies provide early intervention, special education and related services to more than 6.5 million eligible infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities.
- NCLB – No Child Left Behind Act – Currently under reassessment, this law emphasizes evaluations and accountability, and requires states to show Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in raising student achievement. Pay attention to news of future changes regarding the NCLB Act.
- Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act – A civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. Can be used for students with disabilities who may not qualify for special education services under IDEA.
- ADA – Americans with Disabilities Act – This act protects the civil rights of people with disabilities in all aspects of employment, in accessing public services such as transportation, and guaranteeing access to public accommodations such as restaurants, stores, hotels and other types of buildings to which the public has access.
- ATA – Assistive Technology Act – Intended to ensure that people with disabilities have access to assistive technology devices and services.
Overall, it is important to maintain your health and positive state of mind as much as possible. Using a therapist who is trained in assisting parents of special needs children can also be a good idea.
Don’t compare yourself to others, try to keep your sense of humor, trust your instincts (you know your child best) and if you have a partner make sure you make time to connect with one another. Throughout your trials and tribulations, don’t forget to hold onto the continued joy and discovery that your child possesses as it will surely be worth every step.