It can sometimes be very difficult to live in the moment as a special needs parent.
I frequently try to envision a future for my daughter in a social setting, and where she will fit in amongst her peers.
That is why I consider myself incredibly thankful to be surrounded by friends and family that have embraced her for exactly who she is.
Sometimes I feel as a special needs parent we can push away families of neuro typical children because we assume they could never understand our struggles, rather than giving them the opportunity to learn.
I see from feedback from many parents in the community that this is not always the case, so I definitely do not take these invaluable friendships for granted.
It helps that a large number of the people around me are in the medical and special needs community. It is good to be surrounded by people who get it.
I also am incredibly thankful to my friends that have raised kind and inclusive children.
I try to explain things thoroughly to them (especially the younger ones), and answer all questions (even the uncomfortable ones).
As you might already know, most small children have no qualms with asking every question under the sun.
The moment you shame a child for their curiosity, you create another barrier that will limit the level of comfortableness they have around your child.
It’s not easy answering the tough questions, but I promise it is worth it.
I think it also helps to answer questions before they are asked.
It can be very jarring to see things like a surgically implanted feeding tube for a small child.
It can hurt to see other children starring at yours, but sometimes you have to do a little leg work to invite inclusion.
Sometimes it helps to simply introduce yourself, and explain your child’s situation. The whole thing can be intimidating to other kids.
One thing I have found to be helpful in starting these conversations is by introducing children to a teddy bear with the medical equipment first.
It helps soften the blow. I introduced my friend’s daughter to the teddy bear, and she was so excited to have the opportunity to help feed our daughter.
Ever since she has really taken it upon herself to keep our daughter included in any situation.
If you give children the opportunity to interact and be involved, a lot of the time they really step up to the plate.
Most children are curious and helpful by nature, until we give them hangups or make them feel rude for asking.
Also, I have found a lot of support within the special needs community.
There is a lot to be said for the power of social media when used correctly.
I live in a rural area, so having people I can relate with at my fingertips is an amazing feeling.
I can not imagine how isolating it would feel without it.
I’ve had people go far above and beyond for me that I’ve never even met, and it has allowed me to meet people in similar situations that I would have never met otherwise.
I feel these interactions are so vital in maintaining healthy mental stability for special needs families.
In many circumstances, we are unable to work due to the constraints of therapy scheduling and lack of adequate child care, and we lose that social interaction we so crave.
One very important thing I have learned is it’s not going to be handed to you either.
Sometimes you have to go outside of your comfort zone, and put yourself out there for friendships.