Some of us learn before our children are born that they will be born special. Others find out at birth. Then there's the parents like myself—whose kids' needs become apparent over time.
No matter how old or at what point in our parenthood we were when we learned that our children would be different, we all experienced the same emotions.
Fear—of what's to come, what our child will have to go through, how we ourselves will be able to handle it.
Anger—at ourselves, the doctors, God, anyone or anything we could possibly place blame on.
Depression—because we realize that our kid is not going to have a normal childhood or life, that our lives are also about to change as well, and that the future we may have dreamed about won't be happening the way we planned.
Finally, comes acceptance.
I'm not sure any of these feelings ever really go away. In fact, I believe they constantly cycle through as our children grow and hit new milestones.
For me, these bluesy feelings started rearing their ugly heads again when school began in August. With Cooper hitting a new milestone—starting kindergarten—my fears for his future began all over again.
How would Cooper handle the tight structure of “big boy school”?
How will he do with schoolwork and concentrating in class?
Will he still be accepted though he's different than other kids?
Cooper doesn't look any different than other kids, his delays are in his mind. For that I still blame myself—which brings me to that next emotion I've been dealing with again—anger.
Though I know it's absolutely ridiculous to still blame myself for having to give birth to Cooper at 33 weeks (I had eclampsia or toxemia, as some call it), but I still do from time to time. Particularly at homework time when I realize just how much trouble Cooper has understanding his schoolwork.
I think silly thoughts like “If I had just been able to keep my blood pressure down, he would have been born on time instead of early and his brain would have finished developing.”
I know I'm not really to blame. I know that my child still has a very bright future despite his difficulties.
He is one of the most beautiful, loving souls. He's very smart despite his learning disabilities. He can identify just about every dinosaur species known to man, which is amazing because of his language delays.
He loves music, especially bluegrass and the Grateful Dead. He has several musical instruments we beat on in our family band (you can come to a free show in our living room anytime).
Because I know how truly awesome my little dude is, I find it hard to believe that he would have any trouble socially. But his delays make it tough to communicate with other kids, which of course makes me worry that he will be that kid who never gets invited to birthday parties or doesn't have any friends on the playground.
See? These feelings never really go away, they just appear in different aspects. How do I deal with the blues? Well, I write. It's my outlet. For you, it may be something different, but you need an outlet. It can be a creative outlet, like music or art, or you can try running, yoga, or even join a community sports league, book club, or a social club.
Consider forming a social club for parents of special needs kids in your community. I also constantly seek ways to help my son. I ask a million questions to his teachers each week, including what I can do at home to make things better for him.
A lot of times we feel pretty helpless with our children, that's why I think it's important to constantly find avenues I can use to help Coop with—it softens the blows during those times when we alone can't meet our child's needs.
Do you currently volunteer for any charities or voluntary organisations?