Guest Post from Gail Ebenstein, Founder of Atypical Guidance, helping parents of atypical children navigate in a typical world.
Every child has frustrating moments at home or in school, but some children have atypical needs that require outside-the-box parenting.
At Better Speech, our speech language pathologists support these children and their families with speech therapy. Sometimes this requires making suggestions for outside-the-box parenting including how to communicate with the child.
What makes a child “Atypical?”
Atypical children are those with learning, developmental, behavioral, academic or social issues, which may include:
- Asperger’s Syndrome
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Anxiety Disorder
- Oppositional Defiant Disorder
Challenges for parents and families of atypical children go beyond the obvious.
Being the parent of an atypical child brings with it numerous challenges, the most important of which is keeping peace, harmony and joy in the family. For example:
- Learning about your child’s disability
- Researching, locating, and accessing effective treatments and resources
- Coping with the emotional and physical demands of caring for your atypical child.
- Getting to the innumerable appointments with medical providers, therapists, advocates, and school personnel
- Advocating for appropriate school interventions, accommodations, and/or placements
- Paying for the many treatments and interventions not covered by health insurance or the school system
Having an atypical child affects the entire family system. It affects how you, as parents, interact with each other, how you interact with each of your children, how siblings interact with each other, and how the family interacts with extended family members.
Speech language pathologists can make specific recommendations for how every member of the family can make modifications to their way of communicating with the child so that a message is heard. SLPs also work with the child to teach them how to communicate their needs, wants and ideas so that the family system suffers less.
You may experience feelings you are not expecting, like grief, when you first realize that you have an atypical child. You will be reconciling a new reality and having to let go of certain elements of the relationship you expected to have with your child. Some parents experience sadness or jealousy and resentment towards families with typical children.
Parents need to remember that your child’s struggles are nobody’s fault. It is important not to blame yourself or each other for your child’s challenges. You will need to be open and honest about your feelings toward your son/daughter so that you can help each other be the best parent you can be. Having an attitude of acceptance of your child’s issues will enable you to help your child succeed and make progress and growth.
Part of acceptance and helping your child succeed is learning new communication skills that will decrease difficulties at home or school.
Tips for maintaining a successful family unit.
It’s really about the family learning to adjust to the needs, strengths, capacity, and challenges of the people they love living with an atypical child.
- Let your child learn about friendships.
Families sometimes push their child to do something that the child isn’t ready for or doesn’t want. For example, parents often ask how they can make their child have a friend. You will need to understand that relationships take time and that special needs children may not fully understand the intricacies of relationships and friendships.
For these children it is important to work on pragmatics and social skills. They may not know how to create and keep friendships even though they want them. Speech language pathologists work with kids to help them learn the skills to make friends. These can include how to start a conversation, learning how to talk about common interests and picking up on non-verbal cues another person is making.
- Consider play group therapy (when safe).
Play group therapy may be a useful tool for your child where he/she will be provided with guided experiences with other children. In these groups your child will practice interacting in a positive way and learn how to engage with other children individually as well as in groups. You may need support and coaching in this area.
Play groups are great for these kids. A speech language pathologist often works with little kids to help them learn turn taking (and how to share toys or communication time) which is an important skills for a child to have in a play group.
- Place importance on your self-care.
Parents of children with special needs are often exhausted and frequently become depressed. Their reserves of time and resources for self-care are even more depleted than those of parents of typical children. Yet their need for refueling is also greater. To be sustained through the marathon of supporting your atypical child it is essential that parents attend to their own needs.
- Cultivate a network and reach out for help and guidance.
Having a trusted/non-judgmental network of friends and family can be helpful. Finding time to spend with your spouse away from family issues can be restorative. Finally, joining a support group of parents with similar challenges will provide a much-needed outlet for discussion as well as information.
When parents are open, honest, and forthcoming with each other they will find that they can form a team that will support their child as well as their relationship with their child and themselves. This type of teamwork is not always as easy as it sounds. If you need help, however, finding a trustworthy, capable, and knowledgeable guide, like the guidance offered from Atypical Guidance. can ease your burden.
Atypical Guidance helps parents of atypical children navigate in a typical world and helps them develop the needed parent skills while providing recommendations for other helpful resources tailed to each family’s unique needs.
For more information, please visit AtypicalGuidance.com
At Better Speech we know you deserve speech therapy that works. We have experts in your needs and assign the right therapist; not just the therapist that happens to be in your area. If you want to find out more about our services, contact us to schedule a free consultation.