Concerned Family & Friends
Even with wonderful new awareness and early screening, one in 150 U.S. children are still diagnosed with some form of Autism or developmental disorder. I feel it is also relevant to bring awareness and support to parents who are dealing with the emotions and expectations of having a special needs child.
My child was not diagnosed until she was 6 years old. My daughter has some symptoms of Autism, but, is not Autistic. This is a long time to ride an emotional ”roller coaster”. Receiving a diagnosis is extremely traumatic for the parents and family members.
A huge area where added help can be given to parents is this…if you suspect or are concerned that your child may have some form of develop mental delay, ask a family member to come with you to the doctor’s office to help support you and your child. A support person, preferably a family member or family friend, that is willing to help and become part of the child’s support team. We as parents are connected and emotional. We may not be able to hear all that is being told to us by a doctor. We may miss out on crucial information and the information may not come up again for years. This is precious time that the child cannot afford to lose. Parents of children with special needs have many emotional issues that need to be worked through: HEARTBREAK, SADNESS, HELPLESSNESS, SORROW, DISPAIR, ANGER, FRUSTRATION, GUILT, FEAR, MOURNING AND ACCEPTANCE.
Heartbreak that neither the child nor they are going to have the life they envisioned. Sadness that their child is going to face many challenges. Helplessness that the responsibility is overwhelming. The fact is that these emotions will have to be both felt and dealt with. It may take years for acceptance to finally be reached. Parents need help and guidance working through these emotions. In the mean time, the welfare/growth of the child needs to keep on a steady course.
Concerned family members can help. I recommend that they find out key information, take notes or bring a tape recorder to the doctor’s office visit if a parent has asked them to be part of the child’s support team. Parents are dealing with enough. They have to deal with their own emotions, taking care of a”special child”, their other children, work, family doctors appointments, therapies, and let’s not forget insurance companies! They truly have enough on their plates. Most have to quit there jobs to take care of the ”special child” full time. In many cases this can put the family in financial hardship as well. Next comes the never ending questions from concerned family members or friend’s asking ”did you do this?” or ”have they tried that?” and ”did you read this book?”. When you are coping/dealing/trying the best you can, it can make parents feel overwhelmed and guitly that they just cannot do it all. It is so important to have a supportative family member or friend in place. They can help find out the information that may help your child and present it to you in a concise format. They may even be able to help with the many therapies that must be scheduled, attended and put into action.
BELIEVE ME, as a parent of a child with special needs, we would appreciate this kind of help.
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