Thursday, January 29, 2009

Can A Special Needs Child Make You A Better Parent?

Recently, I went on another tour for a private school that served special needs children. I always feel really hopeful when I see these schools because they have so many features that would help Logan succeed such as small class sizes, picture schedules, movement breaks, and smart boards. This last one I saw even offered yoga! Wow!

After being there for a while, I started thinking about how lucky the children of these schools were. They receive so much attention and they have their curriculum tailored to their specific challenges and strengths. I was sad when I thought about how the public schools couldn't offer as much as they did and then a crazy thought crossed my head. Please don't be mad at me. Here it is: Why can't typical children have this kind of education too? Wouldn't they benefit from picture schedules, more attention, and movement breaks too? It's a little unfair like the way the typical sibling gets less attention from the parents. It has to be done but still, it's a little sad.

When this thought came to my head, I started to remember what kind of parent I was before I realized Logan had special needs. In short, I was a real idiot. I still am sometimes.

I frequently compared my life with others; - a lifelong problem for me. Even before Logan was born, I had to have the best stroller and the best car seat. I even tried to find out what were the best diapers so that I could buy boxes of them before he was born. We couldn't afford to be so luxurious but I didn't care.

After he was born, there was even more comparing but this time it was about Logan. How many ounces of formula does your baby drink? How long did you breastfeed? How long are his naps? What time does he go to sleep at night? How long did it take you to potty-train?

As Logan grew up, I started worrying about his speech and behavior but never picked up a book or looked on the internet to learn more. Rather, I focused more on whether I should buy shoes from the Gap or if I should just cough up the money and buy the Keens that I loved.

After Logan was evaluated, everything changed. I read The Out-of-Sync Child cover to cover. I even read The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun. I wrote out all the sensory exercises on big notecards and taped them to my wall. I read many books on discipline too and even went for ADHD parent training with my husband.

Why did my children have to have special needs for me to wake up and focus on parenting them? Sometimes, I think these kids were born to me so that I would finally stop comparing my life to others. That was what I was thinking when I visited these private special ed schools. They were so beautiful and I would do anything to get him enrolled into them but I feel for all the children - the kids who don't get into private school and even the kids who don't need to go to private school. I wish all kids could have movement breaks, communication notebooks that go home everyday in the backpack, and maybe even some yoga too! I can't imagine any parent of a child, special needs or typical, saying no to that.

(Pictured: My boys in their movement breaks. They needs lots of them. That $40 trampoline was money well spent.)


manuela227 said...

Oh man!!! I can totally relate. For a minute there I thought you were talking about me. I love this blog!

Jenn said...

I can't believe you were a "comparing" mom like me. You seem so much smarter than that. I am still struggling to live life on my own terms. My kids are really leading the way and forcing me to be brave. Thanks your your kind words.

Penny Williams said...

You are so right! Every child should have that type of education. I have to say some of it is possible and being practiced in the public schools -- it is the individual teachers who are implementing it though. My son's (6yo ADHD) mainstream public school just got smartboards this year. And his teacher (not Special Ed) uses photos of the students raising their hands and sitting correctly on the rug and the like to remind the students what they should be doing. She implemented so many ADHD management techniques before my son was even diagnosed with ADHD -- it is just her teaching style. And my daughter's K teacher, different mainstream school 5 years ago, had a communication notebook just as you describe. I desperately wanted that comunication when my my son was in K last year.

Your blog is great, by the way!

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