Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Dealing With A Special Child

I have been working with Special Needs students and their parents for 14 years now and I have found it quite fulfilling. However, it is extremely understandable for parents who have just discovered that their child has a Learning Disability to go through the five stages of grief.

It is not easy for parents to be told that their ‘perfect’ child is ‘not perfect’.  You feel your dreams of what your child might be when s/he grows up are shattered with the realization that this is not temporary and that you and your child will need to deal with this for the rest of your lives.

There are five stages that parents usually go through when they discover that their child has Special Needs. But before I delve into that let me say a few things first…
Your lives are not over, they are just beginning.
Your children ARE perfect in their own way
We are ALL special and we ALL have needs.

The Five Stages of Grief:

Stage 1: Denial
Many parents get stuck in this stage, unwilling to accept the reality of the situation but the longer it takes for parents to accept that fact, the longer their child would lose precious time. It is understandable that it is difficult to come to terms with a child’s disability but it is equally important for the parents to accept and believe it so as to save time and begin the intervention process.
The only people who can advocate for their child are the parents and therefore, I would like to draw the attention of parents who are in this stage to this important fact, your child NEEDS you now more than ever!

Stage 2: Anger
Once parents pass the denial stage and realize that this is something that they cannot escape from but must face together, tension, stress and frustration might build up. They might have some spouse spats and alienate themselves from everyone around them at a time when they need that support to keep them strong and fighting. They need to develop a strong social network, join support groups with similar special needs children, join chat groups on the Internet, and bring their family and friends together to help out and rely on their spouse for support, these strategies help the parents deal with their situation and stay strong.

Stage 3: Bargaining
This stage implicates the hope that the Learning Disability is something that can be cured. Parents might turn to praying and bargaining with a higher power to ‘remove’ the special needs… Nider (If You get rid of this disability, I will pray more, go to church every Sunday or read the Quran everyday). Parents might even turn to the Special needs teacher and ask her to ‘repair’ or ‘cure’ their child. They expect miracles to happen!  
As I mentioned in my introductory paragraph, EVERY child is special and has unique traits, skills and abilities. Find out what your child’s unique and special traits are and celebrate them.

Stage 4:  Depression
During this stage, the parents fall into the blaming game. They blame themselves for having a child with Special Needs. It is difficult to help someone at this stage because whatever you say to them would not help much unless they discover for themselves that this is not something that they could have helped, that it is not their fault and that it would not have been possible for them to have brought this on.

Stage 5:  Acceptance
This last stage is where the parents start to accept their child’s uniqueness, start to support them and do the hard work that it takes to build a confident child. They would also see how special their child is and despite them not being able to spell to save their lives, or workout numbers, or play sports, they might blossom somewhere else and have unique abilities that other children might have difficulties with.

I will be writing another post with some tips on how to support your Special Needs Children later on but I would like to share one of my favorite poems with you, one that I continuously share with the teachers I work with. I hope you enjoy it!

Kids Who Are Different by Digby Wolfe

Here’s to the kids who are different
The kids who don’t always get A’s
The kids who have ears
Twice the size of their peers
And noses that go on for days

Here’s to the kids who are different
The kids they call crazy or dumb
The kids who don’t fit
With the guts and the grit
Who dance to a different drum

Here’s to the kids who are different
The kids with the mischievous streak
For when they are grown
As history’s shown
It’s their difference that makes them

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