of Special Kids
Thoughts from parents of special needs
I think parents need to hear that there are natural, biomedical approaches to help special needs kids and that they don't have to go the meds route unless they really want to.
….bring awareness to the challenges we parents face.
When I started first doing research for
my older ADHD son I felt overwhelmed--started thinking everything was wrong
with my three kids (anyone been there?)--but after the initial learning
curve the more I read the more empowered I felt to help my kids. It turns
out after reading many of the resources that my other two kids DO have
definite "issues" that I might not have caught if it were not for researching
for my son but thankfully I caught those early enough. I think many kids
struggle and it goes undetected until much later.
Here is what I wish someone would have told me early on. IT'S OKAY TO ASK FOR HELP! I think as homeschool moms (especially new ones) we feel like it is all up to us. We don't want to "label" our kids or in any way make them feel "different".
I read so many books about boys reading late. I just kept telling myself that that "light bulb" moment everyone keeps talking about would happen any day now. I felt more and more like a failure as my son got older and older and there were no "light bulbs". He continued to grow in knowledge in many areas that would surprise me, but he was not improving in his reading and writing skills no matter what we did. I knew in my heart there was something not quite right but I was afraid to ask for help.
I was afraid for several reasons. If he wasn't learning to read and write then something was obviously wrong with his teacher, right? Where to go for help, the public school? They were the enemy of homeschoolers right? We did not have thousands and thousands for testing and tutoring, and it cost that, didn't it?
As it turns out all of my worries were really unfounded. The public school, while not the enemy, was unwilling to help us, or provide any testing, in my district. (I have since found out that they are required to at least offer testing.) I became an advocate for my son and began doing a lot of research into what is available. We were able to get him tested for free at the Scottish Rite Hospital Luke Waits Child Development Center. We are blessed to have one in our area. He is now attending the Lab School's dyslexia program for 2 years, while I hs him in all other subjects except Language Arts. This has been an immeasurable blessing, which we would not have had if I were not able to look outside for the help I could not provide myself. My only regret is that I didn't ask for help sooner.
All that to say; maybe you could have
some places to go for testing, in your area, or some places for people
to start if they suspect their child might have a LD. Maybe give some info
on the local public school helpfulness or lack thereof in the surrounding
I thought of a few other things I wish someone had told me:
~ Don't take your doctor's word as gospel. A mother's intuition is a valuable gift.
~ Conventional wisdom is not always right. Each child is different. One size does not fit all!
~ Never underestimate the importance of
a good diet and nutritional supplements. The SAD (Standard American Diet)
is sadly lacking in nutrients and kids' brains can't grow properly with
As for what I would share with a group if I had the opportunity to speak... I would remind them to be patient, time will help, do everything you can within reason...but be patient. I would share that labels are not a terrible thing, that when used properly they can be a huge help. If there isn't a true purpose for seeking a label, don't. BUT if you can learn and help your child, realize that it is just a tool. If we had been afraid of the Bipolar label, our family and my poor dd would still be a huge mess. Having the knowledge that we needed was life changing. Another affirmation for me that labels were not the horrible thing that most people think they are.... My son and I were working on a study guide for a book and it asked the question, "If you could change anything in your life what would it be?" I don't remember what he told me because I said, "Wow, I thought you would get rid of the Dyslexia." He said, "No mom, if I did that I would get rid of all of the good that goes with it too." I was amazed at his maturity and glad that we had been able to build him up to such a point that he didn't see the struggle with Dyslexia as a negative thing. Also, a big thank you to Ron Davis for his book "The Gift of Dyslexia"!
I agree, it is just fine to be different.
In fact a good friend of mine said we should print tee shirts that say,
Proud NOT to be mainstream, being a tributary is MUCH more scenic!
If I had a chance to talk to a general homeschooling audience about special needs kids I would jump at the chance to remind them that discussions about how advanced your child is isn't appropriate in any situation and may be painful for the parent of a special needs kid. And, I would ask them to remember that acceptance from both the parents and their kids for kids that are different can have a huge positive impact on everyone. If their "Johnny" comes home saying how weird/different "Matt" is maybe it is a chance for the parent to remind them of how wonderful it is that the world is full of different/weird people and maybe "Rob" thinks that Johnny is weird...underneath it all we all have things that annoy each other and we all have things to celebrate.
As for what to talk about during your meeting,
I think it is important to remind parents (especially parents of special
needs, but all parents) that it is ok to do things differently from other
people, and the advantage of homeschooling is that we have that opportunity.
There is so much any parent would want to tell the rest of the world, it was hard to come up with one crucial point. It honestly kept me thinking late last night...what if I did have a chance to tell the world only one thing? What WOULD it be?
This morning I know that it isn't a great web site, or a new book. It isn't a resource list. To give other parents a peek into the world of special needs parenting and homeschooling in particular, I'd tell them that it's frustrating to watch our children competing to prove that they have something significant to offer this world when they are side by side with a future engineer, accountant, or college professor. As a parent, I also sit side by side with the parents of those kids. And believe it or not, I feel a little sad for them because most of them missed out. I feel like they didn't quite grasp the bigger picture. But I firmly believe that any special needs child can give them a clearer picture.
People really do strive to recognize hard work and achievement in their fellow human beings. Traditionally it's measured by things like trophies and achievement awards. The obvious follow up to that when they get older is material gain and monetary worth. So when I look at another parent who's pride is soaring because their child will be able to achieve that, I feel good for them because I know that's probably important in their world. But I quietly understand that it's my child that's going to teach them all something equally important. Balance . There's a term called Indigo Child, and while mine probably isn't the proper definition, the simplistic version is that there are kids in this world who's job is teaching us all to see a broader perspective. In their own way, they teach compassion, patience, love, and understanding. They teach humanity to be humane. And they teach us all to get creative and reach outside ourselves for answers. Your child and mine are the balance in a world competing against itself. Talk about your hard work and achievement when they accomplish it! And they do in little ways every single day. But we don't gather them together and have an award ceremony, or hand out a trophy for helping other parents and kids to be a little more open to the world around them. I don't look at my son and wonder what he has to offer the world. He already does every time he smiles at someone in a grocery store and brings them out of themselves long enough to remember life isn't about being the best, or being perfect. He takes their pressure and their stress away and gives them back a light heart. He contributes every time he plays with a child on the playground and just by sharing his world, they learn not to be afraid of people who aren't just exactly like them. I dare you to turn on CNN this evening and not think about how that alone wouldn't be one of the best gifts anyone can give our future generations.
So when I want to give another parent a glimpse into our world, I don't want them to see a stereotype. Yes, we have challenges and we have struggles they don't. We parents band together to get each other through. Our kids wrote the book on rising to a challenge. But it isn't pity that I want because we aren't just like them. What I want from their glimpse is their understanding for our children that they have an important role to play in this world. Our children have a gift to bring to their children that will make the world a better place to live in. We're not so different. We all have so much to offer our kids when we open up our perspectives as parents. And they give back to us in the same way. You train an accountant to help my child do his taxes when he's older and I will sit right next to you and be excited to celebrate his achievement with you. I'll train the next philosopher who will give your child peace of mind in his world. And I invite you to celebrate that with me. Children's achievements aren't about competition or levels of capability, they're about celebratory exhibition. We all have something to learn, it's just a different lesson.
And that's the ONE wonderful thing I'd
want other parents to experience in our world. Thanks for asking!
I will add "pray" for that God-given intuition
for Moms and Dads!! He has shown me new truths about my kids in increments
that I have been able to deal with one at a time. I, also, really know
my kids - what they can and cannot do. This has taken time to get to know
each one individually. (I am a mom homeschooling 3 kids with various special
needs: Asperger's, ADHD, SID, & Learning disorders for 9 years.) I
would also recommend that it is ok to start with the basics: reading/phonics
and math. I added lots of read-alouds when they were young and some fun
science experiments like raising butterflies and learning about apples
or bats, etc. Handwriting and reading can take time for some kids, though
you shouldn't neglect the process - just adapt per child's needs and seek
additional help if it's not progressing.