There are a lot of people raising a child with special needs. Despite the challenges that come with it, parents know that there are many blessings that come with raising a child with exceptionalities.
Granted neuro-typical children are individually special and come with their own set of blessings as well. However, sometimes while being so caught up in what a child can't or struggle to do, we lose sight of what the child can do. It's important to always acknowledge that a person (or child in this case) comes first and the disability comes second. So whether your child's disability is caused by a genetic disorder (Down Syndrome), physiological (Cerebral Palsy), behavioural or sensory processing (Autism), and cognitive or learning; the following is a reminder of how blessed you truly are.
As a parent, whether it's to a child who is neurotypical or who has exceptionalities, we feel our child's emotions. For example, our hearts break when we see struggle or anguish coming from our children. We bubble with pride and excitement when we see our kids thrilled about conquering a new milestone or feat. Yet it seems that an empathetic connection really blossoms when faced by parenting challenges or daily limitations because of a child having special needs.
Many parents who have a child with special needs relate that they've become more empathetic, not just to their child/ren but to everyone. If we all were able to open our hearts and relate to others who are struggling: Oh, how caring and kind our world would be.
Maybe since you thought parenting would be relatively predictable, it is hard to see how far you've personally come since raising a child who has special needs. Yet, even though the attention has always been focused on your child, you are incredible for being his/her biggest and most influential advocate.
Advocacy goes far beyond just being your child's voice. With all the medical tests, doctors' appointments, therapy, and so on -- you were the one fighting for the extra help your kid needed. For all the challenging behaviours and quirks your child portrays, that others are quick to judge or who just don't understand; you are the first to remind the critics how amazing your babe really is.
Raising a child with exceptionalities, in a world full of neurotypical children, can be isolating. Perhaps you've lost some mom-friends or have distanced yourself from family members who don't understand why your child takes up so much of your time. However, parents soon realize that there are beautiful communities of other children, parents, doctors, therapists, and teachers who just get it.
It can be so empowering to meet other exceptional children and their strong, resilient parents, who are not only there for moral support but soon become another part of your family. They also become your child's cheerleaders for any progress that has been made. The sense of belonging, that comes from being a part of a community, is a need you didn't know needed to be filled until you've experienced it.
There is a reason why parents of children who have special needs are thought of as strong individuals. Primarily, we learn how to be resilient from seeing the drive and determination exhibited by our exceptional children. Secondly, despite the challenges, we know that quitting will never be an option. The unconditional love we have for our kids not only makes us determined to persevere but also serves as a reminder of a strength we never knew we possessed.
There could have been times where the struggle was too great, and you felt like you seriously lacked in capabilities of pulling yourself and your family through it. However, with your strength and resilience, you are now able to handle anything thrown at you.
Understandably, we are partial to judging other parents on how their children act in public. Whether this was before or after becoming a parent, it is common to think that your own children would never behave unfavourably and are mindful of other people's opinions.
Regardless if you were once blinded by this societal expectations filter, raising a child who has special needs reminds you that children, despite the parents best effort, or whether the child is neuro-typical or has exceptionalities like a sensory processing disorder, should never be judged. You also learn not to pay attention to strangers' comments or condescending looks when your child is having a hard time.
At times, it could feel like anything associated with your child and his/her special needs could be a roller coaster of challenges. It can be arduous because of the strain it has put on your family, social life, finances, and independence. Yet having a child who never gives up despite limitations, teaches us to truly value any wins that most people would overlook.
Families with a child with a severe disability or a terminal condition, learn to cope by appreciating the everyday. Regardless if your child has a severe or life-threatening condition, appreciating every day is something we should all do when it comes to our children. Learning to express gratitude is a key component of a happy and fulfilled life, which is a blessing entirely on its own.
Learning to be patient, whether actively trying to be or not, takes a lot of practice and dedication. Most people struggle with patience -- while parents of children with special needs seem to have an abundance of it. How does this occur? Children with exceptionalities may take a bit longer to learn something new or parents have to be creative in finding alternatives to help their child in tackling those obstacles.
It starts with searching for a diagnosis or waiting for medical tests to come back with answers. Then it could be needing to re-adjust your life to better accommodate the needs of your child. It is also learning about your child's diagnosis or condition, how to manage behaviours or setbacks, and how not to affect your child's confidence or independence even though you know the task would be quicker if you performed it.
Once you've met a child with an exceptionality... you've only met one child with an exceptionality. Sure, there are many parenting aids or books one could read to help prepare on how to be a parent, which is a cause of enough uncertainty on its own. Children who have special needs can vary greatly even if they share the same diagnosis as someone else (for example, Autism - a very broad spectrum).
With being blessed by perspective, parents value their child's point-of-view as it aids in learning how to provide optimal care for their munchkin. Parents take the time to learn what triggers their child and why, instead of slapping a label on him/her's behaviour. Parents understand the child's perspective of wanting to be heard, accepted, and treated equally. With encouraging and valuing our child to express perspective, we also become empathetic towards others and self-aware of our own perceptions.
The children who are underestimated, whether it's from their condition or diagnosis, are usually the ones who surprise us the most. Parents and teachers often claim that they are always surprised by the capabilities these children possess.
Children with exceptionalities are usually chalked up with personalities - discovering that part of your child can be so exciting. Children with exceptionalities may not be able to do everything other kids their age can do - but they are capable in so many other ways. Perhaps your child struggles tremendously in school because of learning to read, write, or pay attention -- but your child is unbelievably athletic, nurturing, or handy. Maybe your child can't run alongside other children because he/she is confined to a wheelchair -- but your child is extremely intelligent, comical, independent, and artistic.
We learn who we are by all of our struggles and triumphs. We learn how important it is to have a voice, express needs, and what we really value at the end of the day. Since being a parent of a child with exceptionalities constantly exposes us to uncertainty, we realize the significance of cherishing what we can control: ourselves.
Being blessed with having a strong sense-of-self broadens our ability to be comfortable in our vulnerabilities. Allowing ourselves to accept flaws helps us to continuously strive to be the best version of ourselves. Since we know that we can't do it alone, we are more comfortable in asking for help, without it damaging our egos.