A diagnosis—no matter what it is—effects the entire family and its dynamics, so working on everyone’s needs helps the outcomes of each member as well as the functioning unit. Co-ordinating all of this is monumental but is worth the effort. Here are some key lessons I learned that eased our journey and may translate to yours:
Reflections, parent to parent
- No matter how busy, find time for you and what you enjoy
- Utilize sitters to allow focused attention on each child and what’s important to him or her
- The same with your partner or spouse
- Each relationship must be nourished separately, along with the family supporting and enjoying each other as a whole
- Enlist the help of siblings, but not so much as to foster resentment
- Educate the siblings on the differences and needs of their brother or sister
- Understanding is important for empathy and acceptance
- Find your village of support people: family, trusted sitters, friends, professionals, and other parents who can relate to your needs and provide respite through venting, suggestions, or exchange of childcare
- Advocate for what you and your child need
- Pad extra time into readying the special-needs child for activities or outings to decrease stress and impatience
- Plan ahead. Prepare and transition your child for every new experience, change, and developmental stage
- Prepare for the future but take one day at a time.
- Do not overwhelm yourself by currently looking at every life challenge you imagine awaits your child
- For example, if your child is in preschool, plan ahead for kindergarten or first grade, but don’t yet stress about college or employment
- Volunteer to help in your child’s classroom or school activities
- Gain an objective view of your child’s interactions, progress, strengths, and needs
- Witness techniques that the professionals use to intervene and interact with your child to increase your arsenal of effective responses
- Network with other parents and professionals at schools and conferences to learn about ideas, events, programs, or expanded insights into your child (and sibling considerations)
- Seek a social niche for your child
- Involve him/her in activities that bring joy, incite passion, hone strengths, and build confidence
- Teach your child organization, and work on his or her executive functioning skills, reinforcing the efforts and suggestions of professionals
- Talk to your child about his/her feelings and struggles; ask and then listen
- Recognize even small victories with praise and reinforcement
- There is joy in raising a child with differences!
- Do not create worry over what you cannot control—just do your best
NOTE: The above is an excerpt from our article that was originally published in Exceptional Needs Today Magazine, Issue 7, January 2022 (reprinted with permission). Exceptional Needs Today Magazine is a fellow gold-level Mom’s Choice Awards® winner!
To read much more on lessons that David and I learned during our journey together, read our 2-time award-winning book… Expect a Miracle: Understanding and Living with Autism.