Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Parenting a Child with Special Needs, My View

This post was written by guest blogger, Sue Mayer, who publishes the blog “Sue Mayer – Special Needs Mom” at http://www.suemayer-specialneedsmom.blogspot.com/.

As I began to write this post, I couldn’t help but think of the many times I have wished that my children came with some type of manual. When I learned that two of them had special learning needs, I wanted that manual more than ever. I often told my Mom and my friends, “This isn’t the program I signed up for.” I always thought I would continue my career, help my children out with their homework and schooling, enjoy my hobbies, spend quality time with my husband and truly enjoy life…..and then I found out …as I like to say “Life Happens”.

"Life presents us with challenges. We can look at them as obstacles to be gone around or blessings to be found. They can either drag us down or lift us higher than we ever imagined."

When I found out my child had ADHD, Dyslexia and was Learning Disabled in Reading, Writing and Spelling, the idea of him also being gifted in other ways paled to the labels that defined his struggles. I desperately wanted to make the labels go away and just enjoy my child and make his journey something that he and I would both enjoy. I researched the diagnosis, I read volumes, I networked, and I explored the options. On our journey we have had successes and failures, we have worked together and fought against each other. We have had days that I’m sure we have made advances and days when I’m sure we are headed down the wrong trail. I’m not here to sugarcoat things, I am not going to tell you that each and every day I have found the blessing…but…each day, each situation, each struggle I try to remember the simple fact that he is my child and that there are blessings to be found. You may ask what blessings have I found….his persistence and determination is to be admired, his energy and creativeness I have often wanted to bottle and use myself, his ability to jump in without worrying about the consequences will serve him well in many aspects of life, his ability to overcome the obstacles and develop ways to cope is by far the strongest skill that will benefit him throughout his life.

After the birth of my 3rd child I learned he had Down syndrome. I searched and searched for that manual too. I knew I was headed on yet another journey and this one a road less travelled. I am happy to say my older son prepared me for this journey. I had already experienced the many frustrations, complications and consequences of having a child that is differently abled. What I wasn’t prepared for is how much more this child would teach me.

Sam is very much like his brother but he’s been further enhanced with Down syndrome and a few other things. He is equally as persistent (some would say stubborn), he is creative, resourceful and extremely intelligent. He has further defined the lesson that all children, no matter what label they have been given, can learn….but they just learn differently. Since Sam is homeschooled, he challenges me every day to figure out the best way to teach him. He has often demonstrated to me that it is not his inability to learn but my inability to figure out how to teach him. Sam has taught me to slow down….so that he can accomplish a task, respond to a request, enjoy things in nature I would not have noticed (like the caterpillar, the buds on the trees or the first spring flower). Sam approaches each day with a smile and when he laughs it is from his heart and soul, he says “Hi” to everyone he meets, he always prays before he eats, he doesn’t want to do anything unless it is going to be fun. I’ve learned a lot from Sam. We also have our difficult days and situations and again I remember he is my child and I look for and acknowledge the blessings.

A child like Sam teaches a parent to appreciate each and every day, every milestone no matter how small is to be enjoyed and celebrated. Having to teach those things that come to a typical child naturally is no small task and can make for a very long day, but to see the progress, to watch your child do something for the first time on their own is indeed one of the best blessings in life.

Now getting back to my original life plan….after many years I have figured out that I’m still living that plan. Instead of a career, I have a job, but my true passion is working with my children and helping other families of special needs children. I’m not afraid to admit the pay isn’t as good but the benefits are amazing. The part about helping out my children with their homework and schooling wasn’t what I expected but learning to advocate for my children and personally taking time to teach them one on one when needed has been an experience I will never forget and will cherish. My hobbies have changed but I still enjoy them just on a more limited basis. I make time for my husband and I, vacationing together, having dinner out or going out on a Friday night to our favorite local hangout or sitting together and talking on the many rides to doctor’s appointments and evaluations. And as for enjoying life….it is not the life I had imagined but in many ways it far surpasses that life and I truly have learned to enjoy and embrace each and every day, to look for the sun behind the clouds and to remember that life’s challenges can come at any time but the key is to acknowledge them and learn from them.



Down syndrome rocks said...

Sue Mayer's awesomely inspiring PMA+ fits perfectly into this blog.

Thanks Maureen and thanks Sue.

Whether, or not, a "differently abled" child (love the descriptor) comes into one's life, a Positive Mental Attitude (PMA) is the best way to get the most out of life for oneself, and for loved ones.

Maureen Lee said...

I couldn't agree with you more - Sue Mayer's post was inspiring, thought-provoking, and motivates us to stay positive.

As a special needs mom, she teaches us that there are always "blessings to be found". Our children do, indeed, "lift us higher than we ever imagined."

Pam said...

Inspiring Sue. When we speak from and of our blessings, it lifts us all up. Thank you.

Maureen Lee said...

Thanks for visiting our blog, Pam. I agree, when we dare to speak from our heart, and share our blessings with others, our words will resonate with someone. They will inspire others, many times, and Sue Mayer's post certainly is inspiring and uplifting!

Sue Mayer said...

Thank you all for your wonderful comments and inspiration. My journey with my children has opened more doors than I ever imagined. I am pursuing my dream of writing..my blog, articles and hopefully one day a book which has allowed me to meet so many wonderful people and families. I have experienced community building with our Possibility Playground project (www.possibilityplayground.org)showing me that children of every ability are valued and loved. The blessings just keep coming...enjoy your journeys with your children, hold them close and take the time to let them teach you!

Maureen Lee said...

Sue, I am so glad that you are pursuing your dream of writing - and I look forward to reading your book when it's published!

Your advice to "enjoy your journeys with your children, hold them close and take the time to let them teach you!" are wise words, indeed.

Thank you for your post, and for taking the time to post a comment. :)

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