Ten Suggestions for Embracing Your Special Needs Child
- Zan Tyler Editor of the Crosswalk.com HomeSchool Channel
- 2002 10 Oct
Parents today are often confronted with tough decisions in regard to their children's lives and education. The parent whose child has been diagnosed with learning or behavioral problems encounters a heightened number of dilemmas and problems that parents often feel ill equipped to handle.
Following are some pointers in dealing with a child who has unique needs. You have been entrusted with your child's life to nurture and raise him. Embrace the task with faith and fervor.
1. Become your child's chief advocate. Learn all you can about your child's learning/behavior problems. Become a student of your child. Learn what makes him* tick-what motivates and discourages him, what his strengths and weaknesses are. As his parent, you are uniquely equipped to understand him and help him.
2. If medication has been recommended as a possibility for your child, carefully analyze the reasons behind the recommendation. Research is a crucial part of aiding your child in his life's journey. Should she be on Prozac; should he be on Ritalin? These are questions with which you, the parent, must come to grips.
Read books and search the Internet for information on your child's particular problems. Interview other parents and health-care professionals. Don't be afraid to ask a lot of questions. And then make the decision you deem best. God has ordained parents to raise and nurture children-He will give you wisdom in your efforts.
3. Find a doctor or learning specialist that you trust and respect.
4. Being a parent is a little like being a football coach. Everyone wants to be an armchair coach-supplying you with advice, whether you want it or not. Realize that you will feel tremendous pressure from different people in varying camps to do what they think is best for your child. Expecting this type of pressure makes it is easier to handle. Learn to stand against this peer pressure (as we teach our children to do), so that you are free to do what is best for your child and your family. No one knows your child better than you do.
5. Don't be afraid of mistakes or failures. Most decisions are not carved in stone. If you make a mistake (and we all do) in a decision concerning your child's welfare, make the appropriate changes and adjustments. Effective parenting is a fluid process-not one that we master once and for all. If love covers a multitude of sins, surely it covers mistakes! Just make sure you constantly communicate your unconditional love to your child.
6. Be positive with your child. Teach him that God makes each one of us unique-for His glory and our good. If you are overly depressed about your child's situation, he will sense it and internalize your disposition toward his problem.
7. Remember that God does not require a high GPA to use an individual in a mighty way-He looks at the heart! We need to remember to put academics in perspective. Your child has many strengths; remind him of that. Become his biggest fan and cheerleader. Encourage him to participate in activities that will showcase his strengths and giftedness. Put him in situations where he can succeed.
8. In our success-oriented society, we forget that God often chooses to use us the most, not in the areas of our giftedness, but in the areas of our weakness. Remember Moses? He argued with God's choice of him as a spokesman and leader, saying, "I am slow of speech and slow of tongue" (Exodus 4:10). Paul gives us a unique perspective in II Corinthians 12:9:
"And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me."
Although we don't like to admit it, sometimes God can teach us more through our weaknesses than he can through our strengths.
9. Pray. God can do exceeding abundantly all that we ask or think. He is the Great Physician, the Great Teacher, and the Perfect Parent. Hebrews 12:10 reminds us that as parents we have limitations: "For they (earthly fathers) disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness."
Pray that He will give you supernatural guidance from His Word. Pray that He will bring you into contact with the right support group and team of advisors to help you with your child's needs. Take all your needs and concerns to Him. God's parenting of our children is perfect: He makes no mistakes.
10. Exercise faith. Trust that God will give you wisdom above and beyond what you possess. Remember: God rewards those who believe that 'He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6). Stand strong like Joshua and Caleb did when Moses sent them to scope out the Promised Land. They believed in the power of God and refused to be discouraged by the giants in the land.
Parenting brings with it painful vulnerability. Do not let this vulnerability cripple you. Instead, allow it to drive you to Christ, as you seek out the best path for your child and his education. He is our Counselor, Strength, Hope, Light, and Wisdom. He is always able and willing to be our Guide on this parenting adventure. He never fails.
Zan Tyler is the senior education writer for Crosswalk.com and the co-author of the book "Anyone Can Homeschool." She and her husband have three children and have been home schooling since 1984.