Parents of children with special needs frequently worry about how to help them manage their day-to-day life. While figuring out how to raise and advocate for their child, parents often struggle with the additional task of maintaining their own well- being. The following tips can often be a good place to start when it comes to addressing needs, challenges, and emotional balance for themselves and their children.
- Help Professionals get to know your child. In most cases, parents know their child better than anyone. As a parent, you will be working with everyone from educators to medical professionals to everyone in between, so they will need to understand your child as well. Having people on your side who understand your child’s needs and how your child operates is crucial. If you feel the professional you are working with is not willing to learn about your child, find one who does take the time to listen.
- Become knowledgeable. Organizations serving individuals with special needs are a good place to start for parents who are feeling overwhelmed when sorting through information and resources. You will need to learn as much as possible about education law and the systems that will affect your child in the future. Know your child’s rights and decide what your child needs to succeed in school and in adult life and most importantly, how to gets those needs met. A good place to start is at familyresourceguide.com
- Prepare for your child’s transition to adulthood. As hard as it is to think so far ahead, your child is going to age out of certain programs and benefits as he/she enters adulthood. Make sure that transition planning is included in the IEP (Individual Education Program) as early as age 14. Consider what options exist for your child and include him or her in conversations about the future. A good place to start is Wrightslaw.org Get on waiting lists early for housing options and begin putting plans in place so you are not scrambling when the time comes.
- Seek out support. Seek support from family and friends. If you are feeling overwhelmed, counseling services or support groups are a great resource. Contact your health insurance provider to find therapists in your area who are covered by your insurance plan. A good place to start is the counseling department of Squirrel Hill Psychological Services. Learn more at squirrelhillpsy.org If you cannot find the time or resources to attend support group meetings or counseling sessions, find internet forums where you can connect with like-minded parents.
Most parents struggle at first with accepting that their child has special needs and the challenges that lie ahead. Early intervention and open communication with all involved parties are often the best way to support and advocate for your child. Above all, be kind to yourself. Recognize that there will be changes and challenges throughout your child’s entire life and prepare yourself for these changes. Take the time to find pleasure in your own pursuits so you can decompress, enjoy yourself, and be able to face the daily challenges. Parents often blame themselves or think they are not doing enough. You are doing the best you can and, deep down, your child knows that and appreciates your ongoing support.
Article by Linda Marino, Social Worker
Jewish Family & Children’s Service