Gearing for A New Norm Gearing for A New Norm Photo Credits: SmilEyEs

I sat in front of my computer for many days thinking of the things that I could share from my own experience as a mother to a 2 year old child with special needs.

Do I share with you my journey of healing and the support...

...it took for me to finally accept that my child is really beautiful and that my previous perceptions of children with special needs were all wrong? Do I share with you that we really do not have to worry about 10 years from now because we learn to adapt and grow together with our children?

Or should I share with you various strategies to educate our children, such as understanding their learning style and to teach them accordingly? For example, if they are visual learners, to use a lot of pictures in their learning?

In the end, I think what would help best is finding that connection that we once had with the rest of society. I realized that what probably hurt me most in the initial days was the knowledge that my child may not fit into what we have known as the norm. That we no longer belong to the community we once knew. That we are now different from the circle of friends we once had. Suddenly, we are not able to relate to each other. 

The great news is that we are now living in the digital age where we can easily reach out to one another and share resources from anyone and everyone around the world. There are many wonderful communities out there that are more than willing to extend their help and advice. I have ‘met’ countless ‘angels’ in just a few months after my son was born. Sometimes you have to look for them, but most often, they will just ‘appear’. And they keep appearing.

Special Seeds e-zine was born because a few mummies decided that they wanted to help parents and those with special needs to have a platform to reach out and share information with each other easily. I was fortunate to be given an opportunity to journey with them. More of such camaraderie and support through finding common grounds within and without our immediate community is essential.

As a new parent journeying further down the parenting road,  there comes a point you will realize that your child, in spite of his differences,   remains a child first before his disability, and in that way, continue to share  many similarities with any other child, special needs or not. They will have their own aspirations and goals, needs and wants. And just like any parent, we will try our best to help them reach their fullest potential. This we do, with the knowledge that every child is unique and different, as they are individuals. Those of us who have  more than one child will know that even for neuro-typical children,  each sibling will have their own unique personality and that applies even to twins. So look at each child as he or she is and you will find yourself at the start of a wonderful journey ahead.  

The following are some lessons that I have found useful in my journey as a parent to help new parents embrace their new normal:

1. Seek help when in doubt, but know which advice to filter out 
In the early days, there were many people giving me lots of advice. The best one came from another mum who told me to take it “a day at a time” and to do what I feel is right for my family as every family’s circumstances are different. Sometimes, there are no obvious right answers. And when I am unsure what the right advice is for my child, I test it out on him. After all, parenting does not come with a handbook. Let our child teach us what is right for them. 

2. Try to incorporate therapies and structure into your daily lives
When I was first told to do this, I was lost. Maybe it was because it meant having to change the way I do things on a daily basis. For example, when I play with my son, I conscientiously have to incorporate activities that will help his gross motor, fine motor and speech. Every interaction becomes an intervention attempt. But these will gradually improve with practice, and become more natural.  So take it one activity at a time. As I get along, I start to understand the value of this - by having to spend time with him and planning the activities, I get to know my child better. The activities can also be based outdoors and not just within the home environment. For instance, a trip to the park is a great multi-sensory learning opportunity for the child. Following, it is never too early to start introducing structures into their lives. Children and even babies need routine to help them feel safe and some predictability will go a long way to help them adjust to their new environment.

3. Work at a level just above the child’s capability, but do not underestimate their capability
I have been guilty of pushing my children to do something that they are not ready for because everyone else at that level is able to do it. But every child is different and if I expect them to do something that is beyond them, it will impact their self-esteem. You will know it is beyond his or her level when in spite of your best efforts and the teachers’, the child is not able to grasp the lesson. On the other hand, we do not want to set too low an expectation either. They are often more capable than we think they are. Sometimes, what they need is for us to let them think for themselves, for us to provide some motivation and be a good cheerleader!

Finally, to grow our ‘Special Seeds’, we must not forget s to shower them with lots of love.

SmilEyEs

SmilEyEs is a full time mum of 2, her youngest having Down Syndrome. 
She can be reached at SmilEyEs@specialseeds.sg

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Credit: A video by Channel 5

Credit: A video by Trixie Chua & Celine Kim for Special Seeds Singapore.

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