Stress. You don’t have to have a child with special needs to experience it. In fact, you don’t even need children to deal with stress on a regular basis. However, there is a unique kind of stress that comes along with raising a child with unique needs. Also, you have to deal with it, along with all the other issues bombarding us in this thing called life.
What’s So Special About Special Needs Stress?
We all pay bills, work at home, outside the home, or both. Every parent goes through budget woes, illness, doctor’s appointments, filling out forms and all manner of the daily grind. However, when you are dealing with a child with special needs, in my case, Autism, there are ways your life changes that leads to dealing with unique situations. In my case, I find myself literally fighting for my daughter’s educational rights. Her school has bordered on combative with condescending speech, outright lying to me about my rights and although none of them are diagnostic capable trained professionals, they all claim she doesn’t have the very diagnosis that has defined her since birth.
So, this special stress comes in the form of hours of research, phone calls, writing, printing, visiting with professionals and it wears you down. A lot of people tell me to “Let it Go” (pre-movie version) and things will fall into place. Unfortunately, with my child, that complacency has led to her failing fourth grade (and subsequently being socially promoted to fifth) and now failing fifth. The school is moving on like nothing is wrong and making full steam ahead plans to promote her to the sixth grade. For me, that means needing a lawyer I can’t afford and trying to do all the research on my own. Thankfully, I have been partially successful, so I truly am celebrating the small victories. If you don’t, you’ll fall apart.
What Can Be Done To Manage The Stress?
There is no magic bullet. After I lost both parent and my husband and was left a widow with two autistic children, curling up into a ball and giving up wasn’t an option. I am very proud of the day I walked into my son’s IEP the day after my mother’s funeral (much to the shock of those present!) and sat next to my lawyer and won my greatest victory, which was getting him into a non-public placement that changed his life and enriched his education. For me, I found therapy helpful and I still go every month and am proud of my ability to ensure my mental health. I take walks outside and listen to music, reflect on things and have some “me time”. I partake in hobbies and enjoy internet non-credit courses from time to time. I BLOG *smile*.
Whatever you find works for you and enhances your life, enriches you and helps you renew yourself to face the next battle, do it! I’ve removed negative people from my life who made things more difficult for me and never looked back. Realize that taking care of you first is what makes you able to do all the amazing things you do for your children.
The One Thing I Do That Makes It A Little Less Stressful
It may seem like a very small thing, but organizing everything that has to do with your child’s or children’s special needs is one of the biggest hurdles you will face. I never realized the sheer amount of paperwork involved. My son’s IEP at his non-public school is over 100 pages! I shred the drafts and only keep the final copy. I open an email for every phone call and jot down notes, sending myself the email at the end. You may think you’ll remember that phone call and who you spoke to, but you won’t. Buy an inexpensive file cabinet and file things as they come in. Start a binder for each child, or even a folder so at least the papers are in one place. There’s nothing worse than getting a phone call and not being able to find anything. It will help. What works for you? I’d love to know your ideas. In the meantime, breathe. You’ve gotten this far.