Advertisement

Parenting a Child with Exceptional Needs?


“Fine” is a relative term. Any parent of a child who has special needs will tell you that. “Fine” is a day that is fairly calm, without outbursts, temper tantrums, and sensory drama. “Fine” is when a parent’s well of patience and emotion are not depleted within hours of waking, a day
when she is not on the verge of tears, has no more tears to cry, or tiptoes on the edge of losing it. I know this because I am the parent of a child with special needs.

I have been judged and questioned about my parenting decisions, by those who know or do not know my child or me. Their responses ranged from non-verbals including the scoff or the stare of disbelief to verbal responses like, “Is she okay?” I usually replied with either
embarrassment, anger, a need to protect my child, or a desire to draw into myself and disappear, “She’s fine.”

She was fine, but only I knew that. I spent innumerable dedicated hours, days, weeks, and years with my daughter and her occupational therapist (OT), Carol, while we unlocked the spectrum disorder that cocooned my girl and shut her away from herself, her family, the rest of the world, and me.

Carol helped my daughter reintegrate her sensory system over a period of six years, but one day, Carol sat me down and gave me a stern talking-to. She pointed out that as my daughter’s system became healthier, she became manipulative. And although that was a good sign, a milestone, I needed to stop enabling my daughter’s behavior. Carol also told me
that I had special needs, too.

“You need to look out for and take care of yourself,” Carol explained. The veneer of my brave face cracked with that simple statement. Choking tears coursed down my cheeks and the old-as-time mama-guilt loosened its hold on me. In that moment, I realized my love for my daughter had pushed me to the background. I rarely thought of my needs or myself. I was emotionally spent.

What you can do for yourself. I knew I needed to bring myself and my needs to the foreground for once. I had to learn and accept that it didn’t make me selfish, but instead allowed me to stay mentally healthy not only for myself, but for my daughter as well. Here are a few tips on how to help yourself take care of your special needs.

Educate yourself about your child’s special needs. Knowledge provides understanding. I found that the more I learned about my child’s special needs, the more confident I felt about how to help her cope, handle situations, and advocate for her. I was a more effective caregiver.

Consider therapy for yourself. You need to be as healthy as you can for your child. You can feel a whole range of emotions–anger, fear, and uncertainty among them. Your emotions are normal.

Get support. Develop or join a network of parents who have children with special needs.
Or, ask your child’s OT or physician for ideas or contacts. Many parents of children with special needs share that they often feel isolated and this is a great way to build a network of people willing to help.

Ask for help. Tell your spouse/partner/significant other and friends how you feel. You are
the primary caregiver, and parenting a child with special needs is emotionally and physically taxing. Others probably don’t have any idea how you are feeling. Tell them how they can help
you, like watching your child so that you have time to replenish yourself or offering a listening ear.

Cry. Stress hormones, found in tears, negatively affect every system and organ in the human body. Crying provides health by eliminating harmful stress hormones. Haven’t you found that you feel relief after a good cry?

Give yourself personal time. Walk, write in a journal, or participate in an activity you enjoy. Every day.

Take care of you. Make sure you are eating food that is healthy, drinking plenty of water, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep. ■

Be the first to review this item!


Bookmark this

01 Jul 2017


By Judy M. Miller

Recent Articles more articles

I Choose Thanksgiving!

in Holidays, Family Life, Susan Lowry Cedotal

I love Thanksgiving and do not want to hurry it out the door.So, I plan to savor this season until November 24. Then I will focus on Christmas. But until then, you can find me dreaming of green bean casserole, applesauce jello, and rice dressing.

CNQR the Darkness: The Kevin Hines Story

He climbed over the railing of the Golden Gate Bridge and plunged to what he thought would be his death. He says he regretted his choice immediately. Plummeting 25 stories in four seconds, Kevin slammed into the San Francisco Bay, but survived.

First Lady Debuts the New Governor's Mansion Website

in Local News

When asked her reason for opening the Mansion to so many online, the First Lady responded, “Being a mom and a teacher, I wanted to have children who can’t get here to have access because it is the state’s home and to see the history."

The Nutcracker—A Tale from the Bayou: An Enchanted Evening in Baton Rouge

in Sponsored Content

The community waits all year for this beautiful show that honors Louisiana in its own way. The unique appeal of the show is that it is for everyone. You don’t have to be a classical ballet expert to enjoy yourself.

Featured Listings more listings

Riverview Camp for Girls

in Residential Camps

A great location on top of Lookout Mountain, on the banks of Little River in Mentone, Alabama. Two hours from Atlanta, Nashville, Knoxville, and Birmingham. One and a half hours from Huntsville. 45 minutes South of Chattanooga.

St. Thomas More Catholic School

in Private Schools

Saint Thomas More Catholic School is committed to continuing a legacy of excellence in religious and academic education in a nurturing environment that fosters self-discipline.

Catholic High School

in Private Schools

Catholic High's holistic approach to education builds a community spirit that is characterized by Christian values, an orderly and disciplined atmosphere, a personal approach to education and a commitment to academic excellence.

Trinity Episcopal Day School

in Private Schools

Trinity Episcopal Day School provides the foundation for academic excellence in a Christian environment, nurturing the whole child.

Advertisement
Newsletter