Where to start:
Hearing that there is anything wrong with your child can be heartbreaking and overwhelming. Most families go though the stages of grief and loss upon hearing a diagnosis. There are so many options and opinions, it is hard to know where to start. I have noticed that there are some universal things that have worked for most children and their families, regardless of a child’s diagnosis. I have seen some children make a total recovery and others who have continued to regress. Some families are able to make it through unscathed, and others have been torn apart. These are the things that I have witnessed to make the most difference. After going through it myself, this is what I wish I knew then...
14 Ways to Save Your Sanity When Raising a Child With Special Needs
By Monica Davis
1. Read, research, use this site and others – Arm yourself with information. You need to be the advocate for your child and you can't do this without knowledge.
2. Get organized – When things are disorganized, everyone becomes frazzled. It is easy to lose your cool when there is ciaos. You and your child will function better in a uncluttered space.
3. Ask for help – Admit that your child can be a handful and let family, friends, and neighbors help out when they offer. Hire a babysitter or mother’s helper. Look for a high school or college student that is looking for some volunteer hours.
6. Join a Facebook group – I know that this may sound very strange to many people, but there are "closed groups" on Facebook where you can get connected with other parents raising children with the same issues as your child. No matter how rare the diagnosis, there is a group of people that can answer your questions and give you advice and support. You don't even have to participate in post discussions, you can just read them and gather insight.
4. Find time for yourself – Put on your oxygen mask first before helping others. If you are burnt out, you will not be the best parent that you can be.
5. Exercise – Raising a child with special needs is STRESSFUL! You need a physical release. Even if you just take a 15 minute walk each day to clear your head.
7. Make doctors’ appointments and get on waiting lists- Find a Developmental Pediatrician and/or a DAN doctor - You may think that things are okay now, but that can change fast and you want a good team of doctors behind you. Some of the best doctors take months or even years to appointments with. Get on their waiting lists now and decline later if you are lucky enough not to need them.
8. Sign up for Medicaid or any other benefits - Many mental health diagnoses will qualify your child to receive Medicaid benefits, this will give you access to behavioral health services and case management services in many states. Case managers can help you to find services that you didn't even know existed. They can also help you get an Educational Advocate to attend school meetings with you.
10. Eliminate chemicals! – Many of our children cannot detoxify effectively. Chemicals build up in their bodies and cause neurological damage. Switch to the all natural non-toxic products and reduce processed foods.
9. Make time for your spouse - They are the only one on your team. Your child will beat down even the strongest of marriages. Your significant other is the only person that will really understand what you are living through. Battling your spouse along with your child, schools, and doctors will be exhausting. Keep your team strong.
14. Laugh – Find the humor in it all, and on days when you just can't find it, put on a funny TV show or movie. Even watch a cute kitten video or babies giggling. Whatever will make you laugh for a few minutes each day to help combat the monumental job of raising a child with challenges.
12. Structure your day- use schedules, charts, and motivation tools – Your child need structure. Go into any elementary classroom in America, they have rules, schedules, and a positive reinforcement system in place. Using daily schedules, chore charts and other visuals, will help them understand what to expect and what is expected from them.
11. Start making the shift to a gluten-free, casein free diet, and eliminate food dyes – These are the big 3 foods that cause the most behavioral effects. I know that this sounds like a total pain and not even possible, but the benefits can far outweigh the inconvenience of it all. Some people have cured their children's issues with diet changes alone. Others have found it to significantly improve attention, focus, mood, and/or sleep. I know that this is an overwhelming undertaking. Start by making a switch to equivalent foods. Switch their current cereal to a gluten free one. Start swapping out almond milk for milk. Continue to do this until you feel that you have enough foods that your child will eat to go completely gluten and casein free for a month. If it is making a difference, you will probably notice changes after 3-4 weeks. However, many times, their behavior will get worse before it gets better. Hang in there for a full month.
13. Use token economies, reward systems, and positive reinforcement, to encourage good behavior – You wouldn’t work for free, right? Especially when it is non-preferred and hard to do, like everyone, our kids need positive reinforcement to make it worth their effort.