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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Parent Paper

 
Discovering your child has special needs can come as a shock and trigger a period of deep reflection and even depression as you attempt to adjust your expectations to meet the new reality. Just like anything else in childrearing, the road ahead is often unclear and may seem solitary. Yet, many parents have found that raising a special needs child can also have unexpected benefits and force constructive changes in their lives. 

 

Increased understanding

 

Suzanne Schwartz, the mother of an 11-year-old autistic son in Tenafly as well as a neurotypical 9-year-old boy, says that she always knew something wasn’t right with her son, although others refused to see it. “My brother was autistic, so I knew that something was wrong,” she says. “But everyone, except my father, tried to deny it.” She describes being incredibly isolated because she says, “you go to play groups and you try to make friends but you can’t have the same conversations and you start to withdraw from them. It doesn’t matter what else you have in common.”

 
Dealing with her son made Schwartz learn to be a lot more aggressive in a positive way, she says, advocating for her child “because other people can be very judgmental about autistic children’s behavior. It’s a little easier when the child is very young, but as they get older people are frightened. They think: it’s not the child who needs the help, it’s the parents who need help. They say, ‘you should watch your child better’ or ‘you should take a parenting course.’” 

Is there a plus side to dealing with these rude reactions? Schwartz says the hurtful comments have made her a more sensitive, helpful person. “You learn what do to help people and make them feel better about themselves.”

 

Sometimes, having a special needs child influences a parent’s professional, as well as personal, life. Toby Glick, a special needs consultant and founder of Parentconfidante (www.parentconfidante.com), says that she has worked with parents who have entered new professional fields, such as becoming a special needs teacher or educational consultant, because of a child’s diagnosis. “I have clients who have become incredibly educated in whatever issues their child has,” says Glick. “In fact sometimes they have left high-powered careers to focus on something related to what is going on with their child.”

 

Parenting insights

 

While parents sometimes initially react with guilt to a difficult diagnosis, Glick says it is something they move past when they realize that they have the same kinds of concerns that other parents have. “All parents are fearful for their children’s future and wonder if they are they going to be successful. It’s just that a special needs child’s version of success will be different,” she says. “We all do our best to give our kids the best schooling and upbringing and these parents are concerned about how their children are going to be able to manage.”

 

Pat M., from Nyack N.Y., who asked that her surname be withheld to protect her 12-year-old son’s privacy, has been helping him manage for several years with severe anxiety, developmental delay, neurological issues and ADD. She says that her son’s issues have made her more understanding of others. “You have to play to the strengths you have, instead of the strengths you wish you had,” she says. “We all have weaknesses that need accommodating and we should not beat ourselves up or feel guilty for not being perfect or asking for help.”

 

Family Changes

 

Kathryn Lynard Sopher wrote, The Year My Son and I Were Born (GPP Life, 2010), which details life with her seventh child, who has Down Syndrome. She said that while it was initially difficult for the family to come to grips with a child with a disability that they weren’t expecting, the experience has also taught her children to be more sensitive and understanding. This is particularly important because several family members also deal with depression. “Before my children might hear someone call someone else a ‘retard’ and think nothing of it, now they would correct the person,” she says.

 

Schwartz says that both of her children needed to learn to roll with the punches, which is particularly tough for a child with autism. “I had to actively teach my older son to be more flexible,” says Schwartz. “Once I accomplished that, I found my life became a little easier.”

 

Patience is also a skill that family members learn when confronted with a special needs person in the household, says Pat M. “I’m sure that my relatives are more patient with all of the kids than they might have been if my son were different.”

 

Although parents routinely refer to their struggles with their special needs child as the most difficult challenge they have ever faced, there are also many moments of joy, such as when the child masters a new skill or overcomes an obstacle. These parents also frequently share connections through organizations that support parents of special needs children, which can provide a potent new social network. It’s not uncommon to hear these parents say that they focus on what they have, rather than what sets them apart from the “average” family.

 

“This experience has helped me look at the world and appreciate things and stop complaining about what I can’t do anything about,” says Schwartz. “Even with all of the drama, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m so much better as a person.”

 

Jan Wilson of Hoboken is a writer and mom.

 

Discovering your child has special needs can come as a shock and trigger a period of deep reflection and even depression as you attempt to adjust your expectations to meet the new reality. Just like anything else in childrearing, the road ahead is often unclear and may seem solitary. Yet, many parents have found that raising a special needs child can also have unexpected benefits and force constructive changes in their lives.

 

Increased understanding

 

Suzanne Schwartz, the mother of an 11-year-old autistic son in Tenafly as well as a neurotypical 9-year-old boy, says that she always knew something wasn’t right with her son, although others refused to see it. “My brother was autistic, so I knew that something was wrong,” she says. “But everyone, except my father, tried to deny it.” She describes being incredibly isolated because she says, “you go to play groups and you try to make friends but you can’t have the same conversations and you start to withdraw from them. It doesn’t matter what else you have in common.”

 

Dealing with her son made Schwartz learn to be a lot more aggressive in a positive way, she says, advocating for her child “because other people can be very judgmental about autistic children’s behavior. It’s a little easier when the child is very young, but as they get older people are frightened. They think: it’s not the child who needs the help, it’s the parents who need help. They say, ‘you should watch your child better’ or ‘you should take a parenting course.’”

 

Is there a plus side to dealing with these rude reactions? Schwartz says the hurtful comments have made her a more sensitive, helpful person. “You learn what do to help people and make them feel better about themselves.”

 

Sometimes, having a special needs child influences a parent’s professional, as well as personal, life. Toby Glick, a special needs consultant and founder of Parentconfidante (www.parentconfidante.com), says that she has worked with parents who have entered new professional fields, such as becoming a special needs teacher or educational consultant, because of a child’s diagnosis. “I have clients who have become incredibly educated in whatever issues their child has,” says Glick. “In fact sometimes they have left high-powered careers to focus on something related to what is going on with their child.”

Parenting insights

While parents sometimes initially react with guilt to a difficult diagnosis, Glick says it is something they move past when they realize that they have the same kinds of concerns that other parents have. “All parents are fearful for their children’s future and wonder if they are they going to be successful. It’s just that a special needs child’s version of success will be different,” she says. “We all do our best to give our kids the best schooling and upbringing and these parents are concerned about how their children are going to be able to manage.”

 

Pat M., from Nyack N.Y., who asked that her surname be withheld to protect her 12-year-old son’s privacy, has been helping him manage for several years with severe anxiety, developmental delay, neurological issues and ADD. She says that her son’s issues have made her more understanding of others. “You have to play to the strengths you have, instead of the strengths you wish you had,” she says. “We all have weaknesses that need accommodating and we should not beat ourselves up or feel guilty for not being perfect or asking for help.”

Family Changes


http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Year-Son-Were-Born/dp/0762750618/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1363644684&sr=8-1

 

Kathryn Lynard Sopher wrote, The Year My Son and I Were Born (GPP Life, 2010), which details life with her seventh child, who has Down Syndrome. She said that while it was initially difficult for the family to come to grips with a child with a disability that they weren’t expecting, the experience has also taught her children to be more sensitive and understanding. This is particularly important because several family members also deal with depression. “Before my children might hear someone call someone else a ‘retard’ and think nothing of it, now they would correct the person,” she says.

 

Schwartz says that both of her children needed to learn to roll with the punches, which is particularly tough for a child with autism. “I had to actively teach my older son to be more flexible,” says Schwartz. “Once I accomplished that, I found my life became a little easier.”

 

Patience is also a skill that family members learn when confronted with a special needs person in the household, says Pat M. “I’m sure that my relatives are more patient with all of the kids than they might have been if my son were different.”

 

Although parents routinely refer to their struggles with their special needs child as the most difficult challenge they have ever faced, there are also many moments of joy, such as when the child masters a new skill or overcomes an obstacle. These parents also frequently share connections through organizations that support parents of special needs children, which can provide a potent new social network. It’s not uncommon to hear these parents say that they focus on what they have, rather than what sets them apart from the “average” family.

 

“This experience has helped me look at the world and appreciate things and stop complaining about what I can’t do anything about,” says Schwartz. “Even with all of the drama, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m so much better as a person.”

 

Jan Wilson of Hoboken is a writer and mom.

 

Source:  

http://www.northjersey.com/community/101949803_Special_Education.html#



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