Where do I go from here?
You’ve noticed that your child is having problems with reading or math. Perhaps your child seems a bit distracted and lives in a dreamland. Maybe you pulled your child out from church school or public school because they were just not thriving or were having some behavioral issues. Whatever the reason, you are stressed and trying to figure out what to do now.
When my son was first given his long list of labels, the first thing I did was ask myself, ‘What did I do wrong?’ It is very common for parents to blame themselves for something their children are living with. Sometimes it is genetic. Sometimes, issues may come up in our children due to our choices. However, blaming ourselves will not help your child or yourself. After you get past the blame/shame and guilt, then you can start down the road to finding a new normal.
When I work with parents, I always encourage them to seek out professional labels. Labels are only to be used as tools rather than a box. Certain labels like dyslexia will help you as teacher know where to look for help. For instance, there are specific reading and spelling programs that are designed for this particular challenge. If a child has ADHD/ADD, then there are other resources to help, starting with diet. If a child is gifted, then there are other resources to help parents understand their special challenges.
Depending on the challenge, a parent may need to seek outside help such as a personal organizer to work with a child who is challenged with organization. If a child has hearing/vision problems, the local Disability Action Center may be able to point to local resources. The DAC is a great resource for the older teen that may need help transitioning to independent living.
Other resources available across the country include: Assistive Technology which offers financial assistance for people who may have vision/hearing/mobility or even communication issues; Disability Rights organization (different name in various states) offers free resources when a parent/child’s rights have been violated; NAMI offers support for mental health issues; Federation of Families offers free training for parents with special needs children; and Parents Unlimited offers resources and trainings for special needs children. Each of these is available across the country but they may be under another name.
After you move past the blaming/shame/guilt and begin to move forward, there are many resources available to help you parent your special child. When it comes to schooling, I had to throw out everything I had been taught for my teaching degree and allow God to be my instructor. I had to allow myself to not follow the crowd. I had to allow my son to grow and learn at his own pace/style.
Take some time to write down what you want your child to be able to do once they leave your home. Will he have any problems learning those skills? If so, what modification needs to be done so the skills can be learned? Is it necessary for your child to be able to recite from memory all the bones and muscles? Or is it more important for your child to be able to do the basic math to keep a checkbook and figure out a budget?
Remember, you have plenty of time. Focus on the skills needed for living independently first. Then add the layers to the cake after those skills are mastered.