During my 15 years as an educator, I have been introduced to many disabilities. These disabilities include ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), autism, Asperger's syndrome, dyslexia, speech impairment, and others. I had to research, adjust, and plan a
ccordingly to help my students learn. However, it became a little different when it was time to approach parents with newly identified children.
I did not understand why parents had a rough time accepting a unique part of their child's development. I did not emphasize with my fellow parents until it hit close to home. For me, I was in slight denial. I wanted to believe what I was hearing, but a part of me was not ready. Remember, I had students that had unique "abilities". I knew how to teach them, how to communicate with them and understand their point of view at times. So, why was it hard for me when dealing with my own child? Why could I not fully accept his diagnosis? I did not want my child to struggle later in life, become embarrassed, or rely on his "ability" as an excuse to give up or not try.
In 2017, my second grader was diagnosed with a condition called Auditory Processing Disorder(APD). Like most of us, parents, I did not know what this condition was or what it all entail for my child. Auditory Processing Disorder is more common than we think. APD is a disorder in which the hearing and brain signals are affected. According to Nemours Kids Health, this condition doesn't allow a person to understand what they hear in the same way other kids do. It affects how the brain recognizes and interprets sounds, especially speech.
My son would come home every day crying in frustration when he was in Kindergarten and first grade. He would become emotional over small things such as a toy not working, going to the store, spilling a drink, or even changing his clothes. First, I thought that he was just tired from a long school day. Even after a short nap, he was still upset and emotional. After two years, I did not have any more strategies left. I called one of our local pediatric psychologists to receive advice and psychiatric evaluation. I did not want to assume anything but I did. I thought that my son could have been either bipolar or ADHD based on his symptoms. I am not a psychologist and Google does not always have the answers. Just want to mention this! I will leave it up to the professionals when it comes to mental and physical health concerns.
Two weeks later after his assessment, he was formally diagnosed and was given a plan for home and school. The first question I asked during the evaluation review was, "Can he grow out of this disorder?" Like other parents, I was nervous about how my son will react and how he will be perceived among his peers.
With the help of his psychologist, I was able to gain some insights to pass on to others regardless of disability and/or disorder.
Here are a few tips that I have learned through my continuous journey:
1. Connect with Your Child's Development
By staying connected with your child's development, you are able to detect early signs of learning deficits. Keeping up with pediatric visits and parent-teacher conferences can provide more insights into your child's development. I was able to detect my child's uniqueness not only using my observations but also using his teachers' and doctors' findings. Delaying time can cause more stress and delays for your child.
2. Develop a routine.
I have found that utilizing a routine for everyday life helps children, but more so for children with disabilities. Establishing a routine assists with guidance by having them feel safe and secure, develop life skills, and create healthy habits. It also provides them with a sense of mastery. Children need consistency to build confidence and this allows relief when it becomes stressful at times.
3. Take breaks away and practice self-care.
As experienced in Tip #2, times will become stressful periodically. To be strong for your little one, you have to be strong for yourself. Take a break at times. I have found time to take a break from life in a park or beach when I am close. I would go alone to just sit, reflect, and have a breather. Also, practicing self-care is also a healthy way to an outlet in this journey. Find time to read a book, get a massage, eat lunch with a friend, get your nails done, etc. Your child needs you at your best and having time away helps you regroup your thoughts and attention.
4. Find a parent care group/support team.
Create a support team for you and your child. This may include fellow parents, friends, and family. My team helps me to feel that I am not alone. I am able to go to them and express my feelings or concerns. My family and friends provide me with advice and resources. Support is something that is highly needed and recommended with dealing with children and their "abilities".
Although it's still a journey, I have been able to work with my son as he grows into a young man. He has become resilient and has been able to simply manage auditory processing in a healthy, yet functional way. Soon, he will no longer have an IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) or additional academic support. It's not for most disabilities but like my son, some children manage their abilities so well that it no longer affects them. Continue to have patience and lean on someone, especially a specialist or one with experience to guide you through this journey. The worst thing to do, in my opinion, is to be in denial of your child's abilities. Embrace them and assist them in becoming better selves.