My Advice to All Parents of Children With Special Needs
I’m writing this out of experience. Though my life has never been easy, it’s been an extremely awesome ride. I have learned so much along the way, and I continue to prove to everyone (including myself) that I’m a fully capable young woman.
I was officially diagnosed at the end of third grade with something called nonverbal learning disorder (NLD), which has a lot of similar characteristics to autism spectrum disorder. On top of that, I also have severe anxiety (which is associated with NLD), hypotonia (low muscle tone), flat feet (completely unrelated and most likely genetic. Thank you very much, Grandma and Dad!) and degenerative disc disorder in my two lowest discs of my spine.
I was aware I was “different” from a young age, mostly due to the fact I was pulled out of class for a multitude of therapies. (Also, for the record, when you’re 7 and get pulled out of class when you’re watching a movie or doing a fun activity, you’re quite aware and quite upset.) It was frustrating, and it made me sad.
I know I wasn’t an easy child for my parents. I was moody and temperamental. My naive tendencies used to land me in trouble. I would get angry at my parents for no reason. I would have outbursts from holding my feelings in all day, and I would take them out on my parents and my younger siblings to the point they put me on medication. (I am proud to report I am currently weaning off this particular med thanks to learning effective coping strategies along the way.) However, they were as patient as parents can be, and I realize they were doing the best they could with the resources available.
Most importantly, they never gave up on me and made me realize how capable I am, which was important because like a lot of children with special needs, I struggled with low self-esteem and confidence. (Note: I should say I still struggle with this from time to time. Ask my boyfriend, and he’ll tell you I’m a continual work in progress.)
I can’t stress how important it is to boost the confidence of your children with special needs; it is a huge catalyst in terms of them succeeding, whether it’s their therapy goals or achieving independence. Though my confidence still waivers quite often, I have reached one of my biggest goals in life — being able to maintain a full-time job and move away from my parents in my own apartment. I do still rely on my parents a lot. (Mostly because I don’t have my driver’s license yet and don’t want to spend 75 cents per load on laundry, so I bring it to their house. I love you, Mom and Dad.)
It feels great I’m able to live on my own and be happy and successful. The fact they were able to guide me to this point and build up my confidence has been wonderful, even though I’ve never been an easy person to deal with.
My advice to all parents of children with special needs is this: Believe in them, no matter how small the goal is. Help them build up their confidence. Be patient with them, and love them fiercely. Always be there for them, even when it gets hard. Though they may not achieve typical milestones, they will achieve their own, and that makes them awesome.
Stay strong, parents. Although this isn’t an easy ride, I can promise that you and your kiddo will be just fine.
The Mighty is asking the following: Write a letter to the parents of a child with your disability, disease or illness. What do you wish they knew? What words of advice would you offer based on your own experiences? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.