This topic is personal for me because my youngest daughter has special needs. She has been diagnosed with Dyspraxia (delayed fine/gross motor movement and problems with speech production), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Mixed Receptive/Expressive Speech Disorder. As a clinical psychologist I am clear on what all of this means. However, I wonder and sympathize with the parents that don’t have my background.I knew that something was off when my daughter was eighteen months. While I tried not to compare her to her precocious sister, she was not picking up sign language or spoken language as quickly as I thought she should.
Of course I spoke with her pediatrician and she suggested that we wait to have her assessed. Stating that my daughter had some spontaneous language, “Dora”. She reminded us that all children develop at a different pace. Regrettably, I gave it 6 more months. Then I entered the world of testing, diagnosis, and services. Within the first year she was assessed four separate times. There was a hospital assessment, school district assessment, autism assessment, and an assessment done by Early On (an organization that assists families who have children from birth to age 36 months who experience developmental delays).
It was not until this time that I became aware that my daughter had difficulty both understanding and producing language. During the first two years of her life we thought she was being stubborn and ignoring us. Nope. Our words had no meaning to her. No wonder she would only watch TV if it were something set to music, like Einstein Baby or Blues Clues. She has recently added Backyardigans and Dora to her list of favorites.
The diagnosing did not stop there. She is aggressive and had some other symptoms that were also alarming: clumsiness, high activity level, echolalia (automatic repetition of language), and anxiety (especially to certain sounds like the vacuum). Now you may be thinking, “ My kid does that too”. I felt in my gut it was more than just “what kids do”. Therefore, we took her to The Center for Autism and Pervasive Developmental Delays (PDD). I was so grateful when autism and other PDD was ruled out. It was at this time we were introduced to the idea of ADHD. Ahh! Now things are beginning to make since. The first two years of her life I would not leave the house with my daughter unless her father was present. When people would see us out they would always remark about how busy she is.
During the first year, after getting her diagnosed, it was abut finding the right services. This was a challenge, first because of our income. We have a two-parent household and make decent money. Therefore, we did not quality for services intended for needy families and the out of pocket expense for private services were exorbitant. To add insult to injury our health insurance does not cover any services for developmental delay (speech therapy or occupational therapy). We found our selves on waiting lists and being “invited to leave” other programs (Montessori) because of her aggressive behavior. Whatever you do, don’t give up. There are lots of things you can do at home to help your children.
I love my baby girl but sometimes my patience runs thin. Can you say FRUSTRATED!!! I have a husband to back me up. I don’t know how single parents do it. We often find ourselves debating and sometimes arguing about whose turn it is to deal with the “quite storm” that is Marin. It is a lot of work!
The parents of special needs children need to make sure their needs are met too. Take turns doing the work and be sure to ask for help from those around you. This includes grandparents, teachers, friends, social workers, psychologist, nannies, and babysitters. Date night takes on a whole new meaning for these parents. You really need to get away. Get away, have fun, make-love.
Be patient and understanding of each other. Parents of special needs children need to rely on the support of their partners. Be available for asking and open to giving. It is a guarantee that you will need the same in return. Having a special needs child will either destroy the relationship or make it stronger. Each parent has a different relationship with each child. If you pay attention to each other, you just might learn something that could help you with your spouse and your child.
Parents of special needs children have special needs too!