You realize that your child has special needs, and now you feel as though you’re surrounded by a swarm of professionals, all giving you instructions and advice. The greater the degree of your child’s handicap, the more professionals you’re likely to deal with. How do you maintain your parental control, when you feel intimidated by these knowledgeable strangers?
Here are some pitfalls to watch out for when dealing with these experts:
- Technical Lingo: Sometimes doctors, specialists, and even social workers start to speak in what seems like their own mysterious dialect. That’s because day after day as they deal with their own area of expertise, they begin to adopt nicknames and terms that are familiar to them and their associates, but not to parents. It’s easy for parents to just nod and pretend to understand these unfamiliar terms, hoping they’ll catch on later. Don’t do this. As soon as a term is used that you don’t know, ask for clarification. The specialist has had years of experience with these words, and you are hearing them perhaps for the first time. Insist that everything be explained.
- Wait-and-see attitude: If at any step along the way a doctor or teacher says, “Let’s wait and see,” with respect to your child, sirens should go off in your head. (In other words, don’t accept it!) Time is critical, especially in the early years of development of a special needs child. Vital therapies and early intervention can be delayed or missed if you fail to act quickly. Remember you are never required to follow the advice of one doctor. Seek second opinions, and pursue immediate help for your child.
- Withholding Information: At times, professionals may consult with other professionals and leave parents–inadvertently or not–out of the process. If you feel you’re being left in the dark about information regarding your child’s disability, insist on answers. You have the right to know about your child’s diagnosis, the prognosis, available medical treatments, and the implications on your child’s life. This is also true of your child’s education. You have the right to know what methods of instruction and therapy are being used.
- Intimidation: Experts may care about your child, but they don’t LOVE your child as you do. Ultimately, you are the greatest advocate, ally, supporter, and nurturer of your child. You and your child’s other parent are the ones responsible to make important decisions regarding your child’s life. So mentally put yourself in “first place” with respect to your child’s care. Don’t be intimidated. You have the right to ask questions, get clarification, and change your mind about treatment or education plans. You know what’s best, and you know your child better than anyone else. You’ve got parental gut-instinct. So trust yourself, and don’t be afraid to speak up.
Remember that these professionals are here to help your son or daughter, so try to develop a cooperative and friendly atmosphere whenever possible. Listen carefully to their advice, because they have training and knowledge that can help to improve the quality of your child’s life. Your mindset should be: Let’s all work together to create the best possible outlook for my child.
Kristyn Crow is the author of this blog. Visit her website by clicking here.