Being a mom of a child with special needs, I sometimes balk at the enormity of the added responsibility. I feel guilty at times for thinking that while parenting is hard enough, it is sometimes made harder by having to contend with the all the extra support, attention and understanding required by a special needs child.
The reality is that, as with all life, there are good times as well as bad; and some days are better or worse than others. I’m grateful that, for the most part, the good times far outweigh the bad.
My son is in the autism spectrum which means that he has difficulties with communication and social interaction. He has overcome a lot of his previous difficulties in managing himself in social situations at home and in school. In fact, far from the stereotype of kids with autism who have difficulty looking people in the eye, he has grown gregarious and friendly, waving and saying hi to strangers in restaurants and malls (which present a new set of problems).
Still, he struggles with schoolwork. For instance, while he is already included in mainstream classes, his reading level is not at the proper level for his age. His difficulties at school prompt those little nagging doubts in my head about his future and how he will need to cope with more and more challenges as he grows older.
These doubts lead me to thinking on what I need to provide to help him deal with what he needs to face, in the present and future.
Fortunately, in a recent seminar held at his school, assistant chief of DepEd’s SPED Unit Dr. Elvira Rocal effectively sums up these points in her talk “3 C’s in Educating Learners with Special Needs in the 21st Century.” You would think that these C’s would involve technology but they are pretty much basic and common-sense.
Learners with Special Education Needs (LSEN) would benefit from:
- Connection. Being wired differently from their peers and even their own family can feel very isolating. They need to feel like they’re still a part of our group, that they belong. We need to build emotional connections with them to motivate them to learn and to minimize their feelings of isolation. Since my son is a budding foodie, I try to interest him in learning how to prepare simple meals and how he can add his own touch to his food. I am proud to say that he can prepare his own bowl of cereal every morning (a simple task for most but a significant feat for us) and has incorporated his own variations such as using his Milo as a substitute for milk to suit his taste.
- Collaboration. They say it takes a village to raise a child. It is even more so when it comes to raising a special needs child. You would need to rely on the expertise and help of developmental pediatricians, therapists, teachers and school personnel in assessing and providing for the requirements of special needs kids. At home, I have come to rely on my daughter, #ExhibitA, in helping my son with his homework and projects. My son also has a network of grandparents, uncles and aunts, and family friends who treat him as just another ordinary kid while also on the lookout for opportunities to help him with his special needs.
- Compassion. I have come to accept that there will be things that my son will always have difficulty with. In many ways, he will never be like other kids his age. However, he has his own point of view and opinions that he wants to express and his own wants and dreams that he wants to achieve. My role as his mom is not to regret what he cannot do, but to encourage and celebrate what he can.
Raising and educating a special needs child is already a huge challenge and responsibility. If you are a parent dealing with this situation, do reach out to professionals who can help you and to your family and community as well.
Click here to see Smart Parenting’s list of developmental pediatricians in Metro Manila.
Click here to know more about the Special Education Unit of the Department of Education (DepEd).
Read this post about my initial struggles with my son’s condition.
For more information on supporting the learning efforts of kids with special needs, check out these books on Amazon.com:
Parents and Families of Students With Special Needs: Collaborating Across the Age Span
How the Special Needs Brain Learns Third Edition
Steps to Independence: Teaching Everyday Skills to Children with Special Needs, Fourth Edition 4th Edition
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