15 things to remember as you raise your child with special needs (by Andy’s mom… Tracie Hoppis):
1) Your child is…. Your child first! Celebrate all the wonderful things that make your child beautiful and unique! A “diagnosis” or “label” does not define your child.
2) Breathe- this one should be easy! Breathe…when you’re in line at the grocery store with a “melting-down” child; Breathe… when you’re in an IEP meeting with a room full of professionals; Breath…when you’re getting new information about your child that is confusing and frightening.
3) Remember- YOU are the expert on your child.
4) Make everyday moments opportunities to teach independence. As your child grows into an adolescent, and then into an adult, you’ll be glad you did!
5) Ask questions… it’s easy to feel overwhelmed as you learn about a new diagnosis, therapies, programs, etc. No question is a bad question!
6) Get support! Talking with other parents helps you realize you are not alone, and “there is strength in numbers”!
7) Read “Welcome to Holland” by Emily Perl Kingsley (get a copy in the Parent to Parent office)
8) Surround yourself with “dream-makers”… people who believe in you, your child, your family.
9) Be courageous! Every day we face decisions as parents that include some level of risk. Those decisions may seem as simple as going to the grocery store, but when you have a child with behavioral challenges, this can be a formidable task!
10) Give grace! Those around you, whether family, friends or total strangers may not understand the journey of raising a child with special needs. They need your understanding and guidance as they (hopefully) learn to respond in a more compassionate, helpful way.
11) Find your voice! You may not realize it yet, but your voice is an incredibly important and powerful voice in any conversation about your child.
12) Take care of yourself. I know…easier said than done! Try to be intentional about finding time for yourself, doing something you enjoy. Prioritize this!
13) See your child as your teacher… with an open heart, you’ll realize the very important, valuable life lessons your child is teaching you- be a good student!
14) Practice gratitude… when new information, or challenges feel overwhelming, make a list. Make a list of things you can be grateful for. Some days, it may be as simple as a good cup of coffee or a song that lifts your spirits.
15) Give back. Other parents need your support, encouragement and hope as they begin the journey of raising their child with special needs.