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Special Education Articles: Parenting Articles: Lessons From My Special Needs Child

Lessons From My Special Needs Child

Author: Theresa Kelly Darr
Freelance writer

As a mother of an 8 year-old special needs child, I am approaching "veteran" status. During the first five years of Caroline's life it seemed like I was crying every night. I've dried my eyes and have learned along the way.

  1. Regardless of your religious affiliation, know that God never gives us anything we can't cope with. Often, our greatest challenges are in areas that we need to work on, such as patience, kindness or perseverance. My own lesson was unconditional love. I'm not ashamed to say that there were many times that I was secretly embarrassed by her when she would act too young for her age in front of friends or others outside the family. The hard truths are the ones that need repetition. I simply told my self over and over again that I had to gauge her by her developmental age, not her chronological age.

  2. Don't expect to be patient or loving all the time. Parents are human beings. In the beginning, I found going to a parent's support group very helpful. Other parents are and continue to be my best source of information and support. Accepting reality takes time.

  3. Enjoy the progress that your child makes. I used to find myself too caught up in what my daughter wasn't doing in comparison to her same aged peers, often missing chances to enjoy her uniqueness.

  4. Find affordable, local services. If you want to get private services for your child, check into local universities that have degree programs in the service area. They give professional grade services for a reduced rate. I take my daughter to Loyola College since they have a graduate program in speech therapy. A graduate student gives her speech therapy under the supervision of a licensed professional. They also had a grant program, which reduced the cost for me since speech therapy isn't covered by my health insurance.

  5. Keep excellent files and become a copius note taker. To properly manage your child it's important to keep track of everything. Every test, report or related item must be kept in reverse chronological order. Doctors and other professionals will depend on you to report on your child. By being maticulous, I have been able to understand what gaps there are in her academic progress and can ask for these things from her school or from private therapists.

  6. Make time for yourself. Many women have a difficult time doing this yet it is essential for your family's emotional survival. Mothers must carve out time for friends, dates with yourr make, shopping and other activities. Never feel guilty about taking care of yourself!

As I look back, I can see how much time I wasted being upset because my child wasn't perfect. These children bring uncertainty into their parent's lives. There are no guarantees with any child. Once the truth is embraced, the fear is gone and it loses its negative power.

I won't impose my dreams on Caroline. It helped to start pursuing my own dreams again. I started writing and now volunteer with special education advocacy groups. All any parent can hope for ultimately is that their child is happy and productive as an adult. Things will never be easy for Caroline, but my husband and I will stick with her as long as it takes so she can find her place in the world.


Theresa Kelly Darr is a freelance writer, specializing in special education issues. She has a degree in English from Waynesburg College. She lives in Baltimore, MD with her husband and two daughters. She can be contacted at darr1202@gateway.net

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