This post was originally published on Substack
My friend Stephanie (Steph) Deer is the kind of person who greets you with a smile even if she’s been up all night with a sick child, had a flat tire on the way to the office, and trudged through deep snow to meet with you. Self-pity is not in her DNA. I know this because I worked with Steph for many years.
So, when Steph had not one, but two special needs sons, she taught the rest of us a whole lot about what it takes to put one foot in front of the other and smile. I’m not saying that Steph didn’t grieve. I’m sure she still does on occasion.
Special needs parenting is not easy, and its timeline is hazy at best. But she also accepted her parenting journey for what it is, embraced her sons’ unique areas of brilliance, and got busy (like always) learning the ropes of her new unexpected world.
Steph’s 9-year-old son has been diagnosed with autism, ADHD, and an anxiety disorder. He is also a phenomenal soccer player and loves anything sports-related. Her 7-year-old son was born premature and graduated from special education services at 3-years-old. He is passionate about basketball and soccer and goes out of his way to befriend the child playing alone.
By the way, Steph never intended to become a special education teacher, which she explains in a podcast I did with her recently. Click the following link to be brought to the episode. She also gets real about her journey into special needs parenting and how she’s grown as a mother and professional as a result.
Steph’s Top 8 Recommendations for Parents Navigating the Special Needs Journey Are Definitely Worth Knowing
Like many teachers, Steph has an uncanny ability to distill massive amounts of information into succinct color-coded lists that fill the rest of us with envy. That’s why I had to laugh when Steph sent me her list of 8 parenting recommendations for the podcast (see image below). My lists are always a bit scritch-scratched and usually coffee-stained, but I will say they get the job. 🙂 If it works, right?
Here they are:
- First, let your child be a child.
- Early intervention is key! But don’t overdo it. Steph explains how to strike the balance in the podcast.
- Parents are the captain of the ship. Your input is more valuable than any data gathered by a teacher when talking to therapists, psychologists, etc.
- Your child’s progress is a marathon, not a sprint. And boy does Steph know about marathons. It’s one of her stress relievers. Don’t hate her for it, but she runs marathons for fun.
- See your child for his/her/their abilities, not their disabilities.
- Advocate, advocate, advocate. This is so necessary.
- Don’t Compare!!! When you meet one child with autism, you’ve met one child with autism. This mantra applies to children with all developmental, learning and mental health differences.
- Live life in the moment. Do what your child needs NOW. Don’t worry about what your child’s needs will be in twenty years. I have fallen into this many, many times, but looking back it only stressed me out. Our children change, therapies change, medicines change and times change. Focus on the here and now.If you want to hear Steph elaborate on each of these items, listen to her share her wisdom by clicking here.
In closing, I’d like to quote someone special who knows a lot about navigating and thriving during difficult life experiences.
“Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation. It means understanding that something is what it is and there’s going to be a way through it.”~ Michael J. Fox
Your friend and support,
P.S. Keeping reaching for the stars. You’re worth it!