I have taught special education for 10 years and I cannot believe how quickly the time has gone by. My first year of teaching was a very challenging one. Yet, I learned quickly and each year I taught, it became easier and easier. Once I had my own child, I realized that there were several lessons that I learned as a teacher that are applicable to parenthood, especially when raising a child with special needs.
Here are five things that I have learned over the years that can help you as a parent of a special needs child…
Do not reinvent the wheel.
I found this to be one of the most important lessons. There is a wealth of knowledge around us, whether the source is from books, people, the Internet, etc. So….USE IT! Why try to create something or invent something if it is already out there. I have found a ton of ideas online and through other resources and I am not shy about using another person’s creative idea (as long as you give them credit when its due). Take away: Always try to make things easy for yourself, so that you can spend that extra time with your family.
Get a support group.
This lesson is a very easy one when you are a teacher because you most likely plan with other teachers. In addition, you can also relate to other teachers because they understand any difficulties that you may have and you can vent when you need to. But as a parent, this can sometimes be a little tricky. Being a parent of a special needs child can be very isolating. I have spoken to a number of parents of special needs children who feel that they are alone or that no one understands what they are going through. Luckily, there are now many support groups for parents of special needs children. Take away: It is very important to be surrounded around people you can relate to and that you have things in common with. It makes the difficult times easier and you can also gain more resources to help you and your family. Hence Lesson 1.
Never Give Up.
I know it can be hard. Working with children, especially children with special needs comes with its on set of challenges. There may be times when you feel discouraged or that nothing you are doing is working, but be encouraged. You may not think what you are doing is helping your child, but believe me it is. There were many times when I thought my students were not receiving what I was teaching them, but then a light bulb would come on unexpectedly. Take away: Always remember to be optimistic about the situation.
Ignore The naysayers.
Unfortunately, we live in a negative society. People will always tell what will go wrong or what will not happen before they give you an optimistic view. I have especially found this when working with special needs children. As a teacher, I always had high (realistic) expectations no matter what the ability or disability of the child. However, I would sometimes hear from others, including educators, that the child will never meet that expectation. It is really sad and can be discouraging. Yet, I never listened to their pessimistic views. Take away: Do not let someone discourage you from the expectation that you have set for your child.
With everything you do, consistency is the key to the breakthrough. You have to be consistent. If you start a home routine, stick to it. If you decided on a consequence for a behavior, follow through with it. Children like consistency and thrive off of it. Take away: Change does not come about if you are not consistent. So there you have it.
These are the top 5 lessons that I have learned as a special education teacher. I hope these can bring peace and structure into your home. Make sure to apply these to your home life and I am sure you will see a change in your family.