5 Pieces of Advice for When You Learn Your Child Has Special Needs
Posted on 07/31/19 in Parent and Caregiver by Wendy Spitz
Many of us have dreams of what we think our children's lives will be like. Finding out that your child has special needs can bring a flood of emotions.
As a former social worker and intervention specialist and now coordinator of LiveSpecial.com - Northeast Ohio's premier resource for supporting the special-needs community - I've seen these responses firsthand, and I empathize.
I am here to tell you that - with the right support - people who have disabilities can also lead fulfilling, rich, meaningful and successful lives.
While no two situations are the same, here are five tips I encourage each familiy I talk with to keep in mind when learning that a loved one has special needs.
Take a breath: Feeling scared, sad and overwhelmed about the future is normal, especially when nothing else feels certain. Taking a deep breath can help you re-center yourself. It's also a helfpul way to slow racing thoughts. You can deal with the diagnosis. You just need to take it one day at a time and not look 10 steps into the future.
The sky is the limit: As a parent, you may have to redefine some of your expectations. But that doesn't mean your child will not have a successful life. Some of the world's most renowned scientists, leaders and activists all had special-needs diagnoses - including former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, scientist Stephen Hawking and singer Stevie Wonder. What all these people had in common was someone who believed in them. Luckily, your child has you in their corner! You know your child better than anyone else. That makes you their best advocate. Trust your gut - and don't be afraid to push back or get a second opinion, if some piece of information rings untrue to you.
Educate yourself, but with caution: It's easy, especially online, to go down a tunnel of negativity. Consciously tell yourself - and surround yourself with - the right advocates. And make sure the information you are reading comes from a respected authority. LiveSpecial.com, for example, is a database of more than 1,200 local providers and can assist you in finding therapists, financial planners, doctors, dentists and more. For other respected resources, talk to your doctor or an organization that deals specifically with your child's special need.
Find your team: As much as family and friends want to help, being able to talk to others who can relate to your experiences on a day-to-day level can be a much-needed outlet and livesaver. They are also some of the best resources for information and advice.
Embrace "me" time: It seems impossible to think that you can be "selfish" at a time when someone else needs you, but do it. To give your child the best possible chance to succeed, you have to give yourself that same chance. That means finding the time to fill up your own tank.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Wendy Spitz is LiveSpecial.com coordinator and former social worker and intervention specialist. LiveSpecial.com is an online resource catering to you and your family's needs. The website offers innovative educational resources, services for temporary or long-term needs and support for emerging needs.