Open Letter To Parents Of Special Needs Kids

Dear parents with special needs kids,

I hope this letter will not offend anyone.  I have 2 boys - 22 & 19- and my oldest boy, Casey, is on the spectrum.  At this point in my life, I feel like I could pass on some knowledge.

The reason is very important - I survived and did not break!  It was definitely a roller coaster, which I so love, with ups and downs and turns you never expected!

Not only do I have a child with special needs, but I also am an instructional aide in an autistic classroom of 2nd and 3rd graders.  I guess I just love to get beat up.  LOL.

As Casey was growing up, we NEVER let him use his disability as a crutch.  What rules applied to his brother Christian, applied to Casey.  He was taught manners and how to behave.  Believe me, there was times where he would roll across the room for hours.  The reason - he didn't want to finish the task at hand.

I just feel that when you have a child that is different, you need to not give in to a defeatist attitude.  We have to raise them to be as successful as they can be in society.  If we do not hold them accountable, then what will they become.  They want to feel like the other kids, which to me, is to have somewhat of the same rules.

The rules might have to be tweaked a little or there might have to be a reward system in place. I get that, believe you.  I remember hiding out in the bathroom counting to ten, just so I could carry on.  

Here are a few things I believe are the most important to do:

1.  Teach our kids manners.  They should know how to say please and thank you.  If non-verbal, they probably know the sign for it. 

2.  They need to learn about respect.  I see this all the time in school.  The parents are giving in to their child.  They don't realize they are actually creating a monster.

3.  They are smarter than you think.  They may have to work a little harder to complete the task, but they can.

4.  Don't have too high of expectations.  Their success is definitely going to be different from yours or your other children.

5.  Most important, find an activity they like.  Make them feel successful at it.

My son, Casey, was the basketball manager at his high school.  When he was 21 and graduating high school, he received an incredible award at the banquet.  The award stood for never giving up and being a hero.  This was him being successful!

My theory is this:  Anyone can raise a "normal" kid, but to raise a special needs kid.  To me, that is my definition of extraordinary!

To my fellow warriors - Stay strong and remember to carry a big stick!!!!!