by Angie Shiflett
Many parents eventually learn that their child has a medical issue, illness, or disability. This can be an emotionally overwhelming time for the family. I know, because I have been there. My oldest son was born with a minor physical deformity. The doctors referred to it as a “unilateral cleft lip”. They informed me that he would require the care and attention of many specialists throughout his childhood, and that he would need to have plastic surgery at approximately three months of age. I never thought that I would parent a child who had a condition like this, but I had always believed that regardless of what came our way with our children, I would love them none the less. Here, I will offer you my experience when it comes to parenting a child with special needs.
The first piece of advice that I can give you based on my personal experience is that parenting a child with special needs is really not much different than parenting a child that does not require additional medical treatments, evaluation, and specialists. Seventeen months after I had my first child, I gave birth to a second son. This child was born with absolutely no physical deformities and completely healthy. Now, I will admit that I worried excessively all through my second pregnancy. I think that is normal for most parents who already have a child with special needs. You have every right to be concerned for the health and safety of your child – there is nothing wrong with this at all.
I will never forget meeting with the Craniofacial Team for the first time. This was an overwhelming experience, and it took all day long. Many different doctors were on this team. We had a team of Dentists, a team of Plastic Surgeons, a Pediatrician, an Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialists and even a Social Worker and a Psychologist on the team. I did not quite understand the whole Social Worker and Psychologist deal, but was told that as my son ages there may be social and psychological needs that need to be addressed and that is why they included these individuals on the Craniofacial Team that would be working with him throughout his life. They gave me the run down on the care that he would need based on his unique case and then informed me that they would do his first surgery in approximately two and a half months.
When the day came for my son’s cleft lip repair surgery, I will remember it as being the most challenging and emotionally overwhelming days of my life. In my head, I knew this was best for him. However, they had to reconstruct the mouth and the nose. I loved him just the way he was, and I was not sure if I could adapt to the change. I know that sounds so selfish to an extent, but honestly, when you have a child – you love them no matter what they look like on the outside. However, his craniofacial differences caused problems in feedings, and I knew in my heart that it would throughout his life if it was not treated appropriately. We continued on, and they completed the job – beautifully.
Today, my son is seven years old. He has had very few complications as a result of the unilateral cleft lip. My youngest son is six years old. The oldest is about to complete the first grade, and we have had no problems. We choose to homeschool our children. One of the main reasons is just in case the oldest requires any medical care or attention for his needs; we can address them and have flexibility in our schedules in order to do that – without risking him falling behind in his studies. However, that has not been an issue as of yet. There are numerous other reasons we homeschool our children, but this was one of the main reasons.
Parenting a child with special needs is no different than parenting a child that does not have special needs. Well, I should say that it does not have to be. By labeling yourself as a parent with a “special needs”, you are allowing yourself to be opened up to a lot of emotional complications. Do not look at it as a “challenge”; simply look at it as a “blessing”. There are so many people in the world that cannot conceive, and would consider themselves lucky to deal with a special needs child – shouldn’t you feel that way as well? I do!
Angie Shiflett is a content specialist that focuses on writing on an assortment of topics. Currently, her passion is homeschooling. She has been homeschooling her children through The Connections Academy for two years now. Both her and her husband are able to remain at home with their children in order to educate them. They place a high emphasis on family, and dedication to the importance of a proper education. You may find other articles by Angie Shiflett by visiting: http://www.ehow.com/members/ashiflett.html
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