Have you ever heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child”?
Before I had children myself (and even for some time afterward), I thought it meant that parenting is so difficult, you need lots of people to help you do it.
I’m sure there’s a little bit of truth in that, but I’ve come to read so much more into it – and it’s more apparent than ever when you have a child with extra needs.
You may think that I’m suggesting that single parents can’t ‘go it alone’ successfully (I’m not; they can; and I have friends who illustrate this quite nicely).
I’m talking more about the other people – not only parents – who contribute to your child’s physical, social, and emotional development.
Charlie is lucky to have a wonderful team around her.
She has us, of course, and her siblings.
She also has loving grandparents and extended family, great (adult and peer) friends, excellent therapists and doctors, and caring teachers.
We communicate with her in diverse ways, we show and receive affection differently, have differing opinions and ideas, sing different songs and tell different stories.
And all of this has got to be good for Charlie.
She gets something from each of us, and this is teaching her so much.
One day she’ll be out in the wider world, and as much as routine and repetition are important in her education now, it’s imperative that she’s also adaptable.
With the older children, their ‘team’ developed around them quite naturally.
Doctors and therapists (thankfully) didn’t play a large part, but peers and teachers have had more influence.
They seek their own people as they get older, and these people expose them to new ideas and opinions that allow them to become well-adjusted, well-rounded human beings.
I’ve always been a person who doesn’t like to ask for help, but in Charlie’s case, she doesn’t seek out her own team.
This time, it’s had to be a series of conscious decisions from us to invite people into her life.
And we’re so happy we did.
Last year, Charlie started attending a special needs preschool.
She also started spending more regular (and longer) time with her paternal Grandmother.
She has started a mainstream ‘Kindy’ one day per week, with a new teacher and a group of neurotypical peers.
She has regular appointments with a speech therapist, a physiotherapist, and an occupational therapist.
Each of whom have been with us for over a year and who work exceptionally well together to deliver an holistic program to us.
This is ‘Team Charlie’.
Yes, they will need you in a way other children don’t seem to need their parents.
Yes, you will love them fiercely and want to protect them from the world.
Yes, you will feel you need to prove – to yourself and others – that you are coping, that you can handle it all.
My advice is this: seek help.
Along the way, you might find your own village.
And you’ll never regret it.
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