Every mountain seems impossible to climb when you stand at the bottom and look up. When faced with the challenges of raising or teaching a child with special needs, it’s hard to know where to start or which need to focus on.
How would you describe your child? Do you find yourself segmenting your child into different categories of disability such as non-verbal, quadriplegic, behavior problems, mentally-challenged, learning disabled, autistic, low-tone Cerebral Palsy (CP), high-tone CP, etc.? We are often forced to provide labels so that others outside of our immediate family, including medical and educational professionals, have an idea of how to approach interacting with our child. It becomes an easy habit to see the disability and lose sight of the person within.
As our family struggled to communicate with our son, I wasn’t the only one who could see there was a lot more going on inside of him than what he was able to convey. Friends and relatives would say things like, “You can tell he’s a smart boy. I can see it in his eyes.” Or, “You know there’s a lot going on up there, it’s just too bad he can’t talk and let us know what he’s thinking.” That wasn’t our first mountain to face since he was born, but it was and still is a significant mountain to climb.
Right now you might be wondering: Why can’t he talk? Does he have autism? Can he use sign language? What about speech therapy? Can he communicate with writing or typing? Some of you may even ask, What about AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) And to answer those questions, I’d have to start using labels and descriptions and explanations. I don’t mind doing that, and I will in future posts, but would any of that tell you who my son is? Are you wondering who your child is?
Maybe you already know. Or maybe you’ve just approached the mountain that is being the parent of a child that has special needs and you’re so overwhelmed that you don’t know where to begin. Well, friend, I’m here to climb that mountain with you. After 18 years of “special needs mountain climbing,” I may be a little farther ahead and I want to give you a hand up, while I also look up to those who have made the climb ahead of me. We can do this together!
Just take it one step at a time.