When you’re pregnant, everyone tells you your life is going to change. You know that, but are thankful for the nine months you get to prepare. However, there is no instruction manual given at birth, and you are on your own, save for all the wise and knowledgeable people who are so happy to share their wisdom and advice without you even needing to ask.
My son was a miracle for me, despite all the complications with the pregnancy and postpartum. Every moment I held him, I knew that he was a blessing. I took great pride with every milestone, dreaming of the grand future he has before him. So when his daycare teacher told me at nine months old that he might need to be evaluated for developmental delays, I was a little taken aback. He was my perfect child, how could anything be wrong?
As it turns out, that first conversation was the best thing to happen to us. Six evaluations and nine month later, our son was officially “developmentally delayed” and identified as having Sensory Integration (SI) Dysfunction. We’re on a different road than we set out upon, but now have the knowledge and resources to do the best we can for him. I’m hoping that sharing our story and how we found help can be a resource for any parent who has been wondering about their child but may not know to take the first step.
1. Accept that there may be a problem. When I was pregnant, I had 36 (at the last count) friends on Facebook that were also pregnant and having babies. In following their child’s progress, I sort of compared where my son was. I knew that children don’t all develop at the same rate, but having my son’s teacher notice he might be delayed was a key indicator we needed to seek help.
2. Seek help. This is probably the hardest part. Where do you find help? Luckily for us, the daycare was able to point us to Babies Can’t Wait, a state-run and funded program in Georgia for early intervention for infants and toddlers. The initial evaluations are free, and the therapy sessions are done on a sliding scale based upon income, so most services are low-cost or can even be free. As part of Babies Can’t Wait, my son will transition more easily into the PSI (pre-school intervention) program with our local school system at age three. So check to see if your school system or state offers a similar program. You may also talk to your pediatrician for referrals to specialists.
3. Start reading. There are thousands of websites and magazines available online to read on most any development delay or special needs diagnosis. Something Special Magazine is one of my new favorites. Books are also easily found on Amazon or Half.com. One of the best recommendations I got was for the book series, Your Out of Sync Child. It really helps to read what other parents have endured and get recommendations.
4. Find some support. As a working mom, I found that there are next to zero support groups available. Most all MOPS take place during work hours, and even fewer special needs support groups are available on my schedule. So I turned online. While I did find a few message boards, I found the greatest support when I finally opened up and shared my son’s story on my Facebook page. Messages poured in, and, as it turns out, one of my friends from my early childhood has a son with the same dysfunction. Now I not only have a safe way to vent, but can also learn other things to do to help my son and my family cope.
5. Take time for yourself. This is probably one of the best pieces of advice I’ve been given. Being a parent is stressful enough, but adding special needs increases the stress. We try to keep the balance between parents, and don’t hesitate to call on the grandparents when we know we need a good break. We leave a very detailed list of our son’s routine and needs behind to try and make for an easier time for whoever gets to babysit.
6. Have hope. So much more is known about special needs children than it was 20 years ago. One of my support people was telling me about her 27-year-old son who has SI dysfunction. He has graduated from the top of his class at a prestigious college and lives on his own, though still can’t stand brushing his teeth (a common symptom of SI).
Remember, you are not the first parent to deal with a special needs child, and you won’t be the last. Take advantage of all the resources available to you, and one day, you could be the one giving the advice and comfort to a parent in need.Read More From Blogs.
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