Navigating particular wants parenting in a most sudden time
Parenting is the toughest job you’ll ever have, it’s 24/7, often ungrateful, and pushes you beyond your limits. For parents looking after children with special needs, the daily challenges of life are even greater. Finding your way around school and everyday life can feel isolating and daunting. Hear WNC families who have special needs children talk about the constant challenges they face, what teachers and caregivers need to know about children with special needs, and what organizations are available in the area to provide support.
Navigating the school
School environments can offer structure and routine, but also frustration and feelings of failure for children with learning disabilities, ADHD, spectrum disorders and more.
“I think all children need to feel loved, regardless of their special needs,” said Anne Haffey, teacher and mother of three boys, two of whom have special needs. “Building relationships with students is always the most important thing in teaching.”
Haffey said it was also most important for children with special needs not to feel left out or different from their peers, especially as toddlers.
“Don’t give up on the children with special needs,” she said. “You want to study and be productive in your classroom, you are having difficulties and often feel like failures. I don’t know how many times my son told me that his teachers didn’t like him. As a teacher, I know that it often takes a lot of extra work to try new methods to help students in trouble, but it pays off in the end. “
Vigilance and advocacy
Parents of children with special needs not only work tirelessly on the home front, but sometimes it is a challenge to provide their children with adequate educational support. While getting this support has been an uphill battle for many parents, some have paid off for their persistence.
Megan McLaughlin struggled to support her child during this difficult time of distance learning. She asked the school district for help in getting a modified school day to suit her child’s needs.
“It worked,” she said. “My child started their first modified day today, and I can finally plan a full schedule and still take on school responsibility early in the morning.”
Parents have become teachers and full-time caregivers, many of them while they are working. Dawn Anderson, Resource Navigator at Blue Ridge First in Families of North Carolina, has worked with many families struggling with distance learning.
“With many children at home and in isolation, parents struggle to be consistent with the structure once provided by the school or even once established in their typical daily routine,” she said. “Parents are also trying to find their way around this new existence during COVID. I often hear from parents who are struggling to keep their children healthy and / or to protect their children with special needs as many are considered to be at greater risk for COVID. This creates further isolation for the family. They turn to First in Families for support with sensory, physical flexibility and educational tools to help with this. “
McLaughlin says the repeated technical problems and glitches she and her daughter have experienced caused a great deal of frustration and overstimulation.
“It thrives in a classroom setting that is far from me,” she said. “She’s used to people being in their place, and it was difficult to have her teacher at home and her mother in her classroom. To me? At the grace of my manager, I put together a 40-hour week, and if you combine that with the ‘work’ I do as my daughter’s assistant, I put in 12-hour days. This depletes all of my resources with no additional income expected. I cannot perform my professional duties accurately and successfully if I am unable to develop a plan that allows me to work on the same schedule as my co-workers. ”
To cope with the distance learning days, Haffey, who teaches from home, has tried to work out a feasible schedule.
“We take lots of breaks to walk the neighborhood or ride bikes together,” she said. “For my older son, I also look at his tasks every day and make a checklist with built-in breaks with a small handheld timer. We have built in breaks for movement, give him plenty of water and snacks throughout the day and try to keep his little brother away from him so that he doesn’t distract him. ”
Asking for help and getting professional opinions
Seeking help is important for parents raising children with special needs.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” Haffey said. “I’m a teacher and my husband is a psychologist and we still had the mentality that we could ‘fix’ it at home. Of course we couldn’t. Nowadays it takes a village to raise our children and there are so many fantastic resources – in schools, in the neighborhood, in your doctor’s offices. It’s never too late either. And don’t be afraid to keep trying. If one therapist does not fit in with your family, try another. If an idea from the teacher doesn’t work, ask for a different approach until you find something that will work for your child. Don’t give up until your child has no more problems. “
“As a parent, you are not afraid to seek help from other parents, resource groups, and / or your teacher,” she said. “We know our children best, and we know our own needs best, and we need to make these things known so that we can best stand up for ourselves. My solution may not meet the needs of my child’s classmates, but if we work together we can help ensure that all of our children receive a free and decent public education in the least restrictive environment. ”
Check out these resources suggested by families with children with special needs. Share with others via our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/WNCParent.
Buncombe County Schools Early Childhood Education Program: https://www.buncombeschools.org.
First in Families: http://fifnc.org.
The TEACCH Autism Program: https://teacch.com.
Mission Children’s Hospital Family Support Network in West North Carolina: https://missionhealth.org/member-hospitals/childrens/family-support-network.
Asheville Parks and Recreation: https://www.ashevillenc.gov/department/parks-recreation/recreation/therapeutic-recreation.
· Buncombe County Chapter of the Autism Society of NC: email@example.com or http://www.facebook.com/groups/asnc.buncombe.