Monday, 13 July 2015

The Hardest Thing

What's the hardest thing about parenting a child with special needs?  Other People. 

In fact, I'd say Other People is the hardest thing about parenting full stop.

Other people judging.  Other people giving not-exactly well-meaning advice.  Other people assuming they know better than you do what your child needs because their child would never have dreamt of acting like yours.  Other people assuming, telling you, and telling all your mutual acquaintances that all the imagined problems your child has are your fault, or that you imagine all your child's problems.  Other people who are convinced that having raised 2, or 1, or no child/ren a decade or three ago makes them better qualified than the paediatricians and professionals you will meet on your journey. 

So, how does one avoid falling into the Other People category?  Step 1: Don't judge what you don't understand.  Step 2: Fully digest and accept the fact that unless you have raised a child like this, in a situation like this, then you can not understand what it is like.  Step 3: Even if you have a child with a similar diagnosis, children are different, circumstances are different, and parents need to raise their children according to their own values and beliefs, so chances are you still don't understand as well as you might think you do, so accept that, and see Step 1.

Remember that cute bunny in the movie Bambi?  If you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything at all.  One of my children would interject here and tell me I got that quote wrong, but I can't help correcting the grammar.  Anyway, it's the sentiment that counts.  It's pretty basic, and so often forgotten by grown adults who should know better.

So, if us 2e or SEN parents don't want to be told about all the things we're doing wrong and how to do it right (and trust me, Supernanny can't cure neurological disorders or developmental delays with a naughty step), what can a concerned bystander do? 

If you ever went to Sunday school, you probably heard that story of the Good Samaritan.  This guy gets beaten and left by the road, and some people make up excuses about why they shouldn't help and hurry past, but then this Samaritan comes along and helps the guy.  The moral of the story is usually given by asking the children "who was this man's neighbour?"  The answer, of course, is the guy who helped him. 

My point?  Be a neighbour.

Smile.  Say something nice.  Talk to the child like he or she is a real, live person, complete with interests, likes, and dislikes.  Offer to help. Therapy and appointments are stressful and take up a lot of time.  Siblings get less than their share of attention.  Offer lifts to appointments or take siblings to the park so they don't have to spend their afternoon in a waiting room, again. Children who are not keeping pace with their peers in terms of development are very prone to critically low self-esteem. Don't buy age-but-not-developmental-stage appropriate gifts.  Spend time on children, let them feel like they are worth time instead of money.  If you feel some thought about what the parents "really ought to do" creeping in, remind yourself that it is not your place to judge, and find some positive to replace that thought with. 

Be a neighbour, not one of those other people.

** Oops!  I hadn't realized that editing bumps posts up on the timeline, so this is actually an old one from last year, but I fixed some formatting and spelling. 

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