by Karen Griffith Gryga
I’m posting this as it was written- with permission- and you can find the original article on Lipstick Wisdom, here. I’m posting it because it’s eloquent and spot on, and if you have friends or family who are raising ADHDers, then you can help them simply by reading this piece.
Recently there was a discussion question put out on the web which asked what I would want a mother of a typical needs child to know about mothering a special needs child. As a mother to both a typical needs child and a special needs child, this question is really difficult to answer. Our son has both learning disabilities and ADD.
I have to say that I have written and re-written my answer probably a dozen of times. Finally, I think my answer comes down to what I feel is obvious. What mothers of typical needs children, family and friends need to understand is that we, families of special needs children, need understanding and consideration of our situation. Not unlike those with physically visible handicaps, those with invisible to the eye special needs require consideration, accommodations, respect and understanding. Invisible special needs can make daily situations no less daunting than for those with physical handicaps.
What is especially tricky with learning disabilities and ADHD, especially when a child is young, is that understanding the special needs and challenges takes time and work to understand and address. It has taken us a great deal of time, awareness and education to understand our son’s needs and to respect them. By respecting his needs, I mean that the way he is taught, communicated with, motivated and disciplined is done in a way specific to him and his needs. If you have a close friend or family member with a special needs child, educate yourself on the special needs of the child so that you too can RESPECT the needs that the child has.
My mother and sister have both read books to educate themselves. It has meant such a great deal to us that they took the time to understand our situation. You can read some articles online. It does not have to take a great deal of time. A little effort can go a long way.
We are extremely proud of both our son and our daughter. We love them both and recognize that each of them have their special strengths and their weaknesses.
With a special needs child, however, their weaknesses can make every day living very difficult. The difficulties can affect academics, social situations and the mundane tasks of every day life. Even with the effort we have put in to understand our son’s strengths and weaknesses, we don’t always understand how his issues will come into play in different situations. As a result, we are always on the alert with our son and we always have our “armour” on, as a favorite blogger of mine, canmombecalm, says.
We have our armour on when it comes to school and home work. His needs have to be individually understood and addressed. Even though he is in a small classroom setting, we work with the teachers closely to understand what is most effective for him in learning. Homework is never easy and takes a great deal of vigilance, creativity and patience. It has to be a part of our daily routine all year long. We need to be as or more observant about his successes and his challenges as his teachers.
We have our armour on when it comes to social settings. Group situations can be stressful for our child. Changing from one activity to the next activity can be stressful for our child. Answering on demand questions from adults can be stressful for our child. Social situations for our son can be tougher than for the typical child but they are extremely important to him. Maybe it is because he is in a small group classroom or because his homework takes longer and has to be part of a six day a week routine. Whatever the reason, when he has an opportunity to have a play date, it is extremely important to him and if something happens which causes the play date to be cancelled, it is very upsetting to him.
We have our armour on for every day living. He needs time to transition from one activity to the next such as from play time to dinner time and from dinner time to homework time. Each transition requires forethought and warning. Instructions need to be broken down into one or two discrete tasks that can be communicated easily and completed quickly. He needs reminders for most daily activities.
As a result, I may seem high-strung or over-protective to a typical needs mother but I assure you that I am neither. I am simply a mother that is being respectful of the needs of her child. Because our son’s challenges are not visible to the eye, we have to be the buffer zone for our child making sure that he gets the consideration and understanding that he needs.
Is our day-to-day life more challenging with a special needs child? Absolutely.
Do we worry? Absolutely.
However it has made us realize that, in life, you have to celebrate each small success. We celebrate little notes written to us, we celebrate books completed, we celebrate small instructions followed and we celebrate fun, successful play dates. Life is good and we would not want it any other way!!
…come play on my rollercoaster…