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How I Helped Another Parent When Her Child Had a Meltdown

I was at an IEP (Individual Education Plan) meeting for my son, Sebastian, who has autism spectrum disorder. During the meeting, while the coordinators are putting together their findings and the paperwork for you to review and sign, they place you in a room with other families. One time, I shared the room with a young lady who had a newborn and a 4-year-old daughter. Sebastian was also 4 at the time. However, I noticed she was a little higher on the spectrum than he is.

The little girl and Sebastian began to play together and she started to play a little roughly. I felt she didn’t understand what she was doing, so I didn’t make a big deal out of it. They’re children, and it’s to be expected sometimes. Her mom asked me if Sebastian had autism because of the flapping he does and the fact that he’s nonverbal. I told her yes, and we proceeded to talk about how smart our children are despite what others might see. We also began to discuss how difficult it can be sometimes, and the stares we get when our children make certain noises or exhibit certain behaviors deemed “not normal.”

As we continued talking and our little ones continued to play, her daughter hit Sebastian in the head with a ball or something, and she went to give her a time-out. Her daughter began to have a meltdown and the mom looked so uneasy. As she sat on the floor cradling her daughter while her daughter struggled to get loose, I came over and sat down on the floor with her and began to share some of the things I learned from attending therapy with Sebastian. I explained to her that trying to control her meltdown wasn’t going to work; it would only make things worse. I told her to allow the meltdown and then when she calms down, explain to her why you wanted her to sit for a moment.

We continued to talk and share information. I told her about places she may want to check into for assistance. She was so grateful and wanted to keep in touch. I gave her my email address and told her she could contact me anytime because we all need to support each other.

As I was sitting with the parent, one of the IEP coordinators came in and saw what took place. She pulled me to one side and said, “That was a great thing you just did. We do not have many parents that will sit with one another and try and help each other deal with situations such as the one I just saw.” She then gave me a hug and said, “We need more parents like you in the schools to help parents who might be struggling with a child with special needs.” I thanked her and explained to her that we need support and it’s difficult to get. As the parent of a child with special needs, my responsibility is to support those going through the same thing.

I want to be as supportive as possible to parents like me because there are so many obstacles we already have to face in this “normal” world. As an advocate, parent and student of a child with special needs, I stand with them to offer support, guidance and understanding. Together, we can make a huge difference in how our children are viewed and treated in this world. We are their voice!

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