An Interview: Parenting Children with Special Needs
My son and I were shopping the other day and during our expedition, we passed a lady in a wheel chair. My son, never having seen a person who was wheelchair bound before, was fascinated – not only did she have her own 'car', she was allowed to drive it around the shops! He stared, of course, and excitedly pointed at her, telling me (in German) that he wants one of those. I was at a complete loss for words (which does not happen often as my world revolves around words), not entirely sure what the best way would be to deal with this awkward situation - how best should I explain special needs to my two-year-old? And what should I teach him about how to treat people with special needs?
I met Sharliene, mom to an exceptionally bright and talented son with special needs, a few years ago. The situation immediately made me think of her; her quiet calm, strength and amiable, positive energy. She had mentioned this very thing to me a few months ago and suggested that I write a blog about kids with special needs. And so, I decided to set up an interview with her, so that moms like me, can learn to understand and appreciate what it is like to live with a child who has special needs; so that we can teach our kids what special needs are. And, so that moms, like Sharliene, can find some inspiration.
Raising a Child with Special Needs: Interview with Mom Sharliene
How old is your son and what condition does he suffer from?
My son is 10 years old and was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at the age of 8 months.
What is the biggest challenge in taking care of him?
I do not see raising my son as a challenge – our heavenly Father would not have blessed us with this special child if he felt that we as parents would not be capable of raising this Angel of his.
He has however undergone 9 operations on both his legs and feet so that he can walk and it is extremely hard to see him endure such tremendous pain.
How are you overcoming any hardships which might occur?
As parents, we always try to keep the end goal in mind, which is for him to be more independent and to be able to attend to his own basic needs.
Which principles are you and your husband using when raising your son to ensure that he is well-rounded and confident?
We raise him as “normal” as we possibly can and teach him to stand his own ground. He is a very self-motivated child and always willing to take on new challenges. His outgoing personality is his strongest asset; therefore, we always encourage him to try everything and to do his best.
What is your greatest worry for your son in the future? And how do you overcome these fears?
This is a huge one – what does the future hold? I wish we could pave the road to happiness and tell him that everything will be just fine. As parents, we can only be there for him day by day, to help take on each challenge life throws at him and to teach him that every dark cloud has a silver lining.
What has your son taught you? What gifts has he brought into this world?
He has definitely taught us to have patience and to appreciate the smaller things in life. There are so many little things in life that we, everybody, just accept as normal, a standard everyday milestone - your child taking his first step for example. Our son only took his first step at the age of 4, after 3 operations and with the aid of a walker.
What does your typical day look like?
Busy, very busy – school, physio in the afternoons, and after-school activities like music classes, and then the “homework”.
What indoor activities and entertainment do you do at home?
We play a lot of educational games and also do a lot of the physio exercises in a “play, play” manner
When going out on family excursions what are the factors to consider when choosing places/restaurants/venues?
We always have to take into consideration whether areas are wheelchair friendly, that swimming pools are covered and we have to be aware, and careful, of slippery surfaces, especially showers.
What would you like people to know and understand about kids with special needs? What should we teach our kids about children with special needs?
Kids with special needs are just kids as well and I believe that they have been placed on this earth for us to learn to appreciate the simpler things in life. Kids will always be kids and ask questions if they don’t understand why differently abled kids are different. Parents should explain to their kids that they are “special gifts from God” and, above all, respect them for who they are.
For more information on family activities for children with special needs, read our recent guest post by Warrior on Wheels here.
If your child is suffering from ADHD, here is an expert guest post listing 10 fun activities to keep him / her busy mind and body entertained.