I know that my blog has always been about teaching and my classroom. In the beginning I planned that it would be both teaching and about my boys. That hasn't happened but this summer as I have worked tirelessly and endlessly with and for my son who has ADHD, sensory processing disorder and severe anxiety I felt called to share some things but didn't know what. This week I came across a blog in which a mother listed 10 things she wished people knew about parenting a special needs child. While I don't have a special needs child I do have what they call a high needs child and I related to much of what she said. So, I took what she wrote, changed, added, deleted and adapted it to the 5 things I wish others knew when it comes to parenting a high needs child. I thought I would share because a classroom where there isn't a ADHD child is rare. Here is me not being a teacher but a parent, like the parents you have and meet with, sharing what it's like raising a child with needs.
If you only knew:
1. We don’t have any extra energy or more patience or understanding than anyone else.
It feels dismissive when people say, ‘God will only give you what you can handle, He must have known you could handle it.’ Yes, we’re handling it, and we understand that you can’t imagine yourself in our shoes, but it doesn’t mean that it’s any easier for us than it would be for you.
2. The emotional enormity of it is exhausting.
Emotionally every developmental change, grade change, choosing treatments (alternative, medicine.....), supervising actions, words and activities and making medical decisions (doctors, therapy...) are exhausting year after year. Every decision that is made has been talked about - A LOT, tears shed about it and well thought out. Please respect it even if you don't understand it.
3. The services available are difficult to navigate and expensive.
Many assume that if you had a high needs child you just sign up for services, and someone told you exactly what to do, what you qualified for, and always acted in your child’s best interest. In most cases the parents have to really network with other parents to see what’s available, apply and re-apply for a correct diagnosis, and fight through red tape to get the child to be placed in the appropriate setting. And then do it all over again in 12 months when their developmental needs change. For expenses- there is so much out there, but it costs so much! Speech therapy $60 twice a week, $70 for sensory integration once a week, $200 a counseling session, $300 a month for meds…
4. Our priorities change based on the entire family.
Sometimes we are focusing on limiting screen time, sometimes we’re focused on a behavior issue, sometimes it’s academic, sometimes it’s just maintaining the progress we’ve made so far because the family is going through some other transition. It’s impossible for all of us (child and parents) to focus 100% on everything at once, so it may look like we’re changing our mind and jumping around a lot. But, I promise we’re not doing this for fun or because we’re bored- we’re trying to find what works best for our family.
5. My child’s behavior issues are not from poor parenting.
Yes, consistency and routine usually help, but the way my child’s brain is wired and the issues he deals with make him not respond to regular parenting techniques the way a typically developing child would. I wish I could avoid the glares when we are out for what seems like an age-inappropriate meltdown. But, we still have to go buy groceries, go to the bank, and get our car fixed just like everyone else – and sometimes plans can’t work around our child’s issues, so they may be fussing in the store. It’s just how it is.