1. Know Your Tribe. These are the people that know you and your child. They accept you as you are, warts and all. They don’t flinch when your child does something “abnormal” to the regular world and will contently listen when you need to unload the challenges of having a differently abled child.
2. Laughter. I am well-versed in inappropriate comments. Often laughter is the best medicine and the more inappropriate, the better! It’s easy to get mired down, depressed, and burnt out. I have that handful of friends that “get me” and understand my train of thought. They know that even though it’s very wrong, it’s just a coping mechanism. Be careful not to have these discussions in a public forum. Ha!
3. Very Strong Backbone. Everyone has an opinion. And most of the time, people have no idea what they’re talking about no matter how well-intentioned the advice. I’ve learned that I need to do what’s right for my child no matter what. We have had to face a lot of stares, criticism (blatant and otherwise), advice, and judgment. However, knowing at the end of the day that I did what my child needed and helped him or her be successful is enough.
4. Become an Acronym Expert. With each diagnosis, you learn more terminology, and therefore, more acronyms. I can rattle off the ABC Soup like a pro these days. However, in the early days, it was so much harder to remember what each letter stood for. It helps to understand what each diagnosis means and how to help your child live his/her best life.
5. Become Resilient. We have struggled greatly in our path to parenthood. All of this has helped me become strong and resilient in the face of doubt and adversity. I have learned to advocate passionately for my children. It means demanding care, med changes, and understanding when my child (who has invisible disabilities) needs it the most.
6. Find Informed Medical Professionals. Our pediatrician has become invaluable in the process of special needs parenting. She knows my child and never stops looking for answers. When other providers cannot read beyond the physical symptoms, she understands him and helps in any ethical way she can. She has referred us on when she isn’t able to help, or it’s beyond her specialty. Priceless.
7. Love Unconditionally. I may not always understand what my children are going through, but I love them unconditionally through all their ups and downs. It’s hard to watch them struggle, but it’s so worth it. The needs are tough, but these kids have wonderful sparkling personalities that make it easy and fun to watch them succeed.