April is Autism Awareness Month, and our attention is on our special needs children and the help they need. Associated with our special children are also their parents, who also have special needs. They need our special attention and exceptional support.
Parenting is always challenging, but the challenges reach new heights when parenting a child with special needs. Parents are usually behind the scenes, but for them, every aspect of parenting is magnified. They must invest a massive amount of their time and patience in supporting and raising their children. For them, life can be full of difficulties around simple day to day exercises.
It is a miracle the way parents of special needs children handle their day. They are usually rushing between meetings at schools, frequent visits to clinics, therapy appointments and multiple tasks to finish, followed by sleepless nights. They are in a position of caring for their children constantly, and it is exhausting.
Our parents need support, a lot more support from the community than is available for them. Parents who are raising a child with special needs have considerable challenges to overcome than we think is possible. Here are some suggestions we as community members can help with: If a parent is raising a special needs child in a family, neighbourhood, or friend circle, do reach out to them and offer help. It is sometimes hard to imagine the challenges parents face but avoid pity as pity does not help anyone.
Offer support no matter how small. Sometimes just having someone to talk to is comforting. Someone just offering a listening ear also goes a long way to help the parents.
It is easy to get into negative talk when discussing a child with special needs. Instead of spiraling downward, infuse positivity in conversations with them. Show them that they are doing an excellent job and let them see hope in positive outcomes.
Set an example of inclusion. Include the parents and their child in ordinary activities and accommodate challenges. In our country, families with special needs children face a lack of access. The outside world is not always accessible for their child’s needs. Our list is endless from ramp access, lack of adequate toilet provisions and narrow or uneven footpaths. Accessibility can leave families isolated and prevent them from going to places that they love.
Many families face a lack of understanding from others. We do not understand every challenge and problem that the child is facing, but perhaps we can make a little difference by being empathetic and kind. It is the stranger staring at the child who is having a meltdown in the supermarket that makes parents uncomfortable. Empathy and understanding are so important, and remember kindness always wins.
For the parents of special needs children, these suggestions can be helpful:
Remember that you are not alone. It may seem that you are handling everything on your own but find others who are struggling just like you, and your support is in them. Connecting with others who can relate to your journey can offer long-lasting friendship and fellowship.
You are not the reason for the problems. Parents somehow think they are to be blamed for all the problems. Parents with special needs children have a life filled with strong emotions and difficult choices, but this is not an experience you chose for yourself, nor is this your fault.
Unless you do not ask, you would not know what help is available for you. So, do not hesitate in asking others for help. The people who care about you will want to help if you let them.
It is not possible to get everything right, and it is ok to make mistakes. You are shouldering a huge responsibility, and not everything will likely go right. Be more forgiving of yourself.
Being a parent is one aspect of your life but let it not shape you ultimately. Keep space for yourself and your marriage too. We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails. Do not give in and surrender to your challenging moments, and do not let despair overcome your spirit.
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