By Jennifer Seigworth
All parents who are focusing most of their time on their children on a daily basis need a little time away once in a while. It is necessary to have some time to take care of one’s own health and well-being as much as the children’s. This time away can have a positive impact on the relationship between the parents and children as well. It allows room for developing each other’s own interests during the short time of separation and allows for individual growth. Frankly, everyone needs a little breathing room at times. Now, consider what that would be like for the parent of a child with special needs.
Some might assume that they have an answer for that, “parents of special needs children get extra help.” Well, that is not always the case! Something that I recently learned from a local parent is that having a child with special needs does not automatically qualify a family for a multitude of services or funding for much needed services. In fact, parents are often left struggling to make ends meet while trying to find and keep child care in general; let alone safe, well-trained, consistent child care beneficial for their loved ones.
Once doctors finally have a confirmed diagnosis for a child’s condition, (which could take years) the child may become eligible for services, respite care and home care services. However, the respite care is often only several hours per month. This is certainly appreciated by parents, but it is not enough. The diagnosis and degree of disability designates the amount of time allotted for parents to receive help with their child or children.
In some cases, if there are other children in the family, and they are not old enough to care for themselves, there would need to be more than one caretaker if the parent were to leave the home. One person would need to be responsible for one-on-one care of the special needs child while another child care worker would need to be responsible for caring for the other child or children. There are also certain requirements and training for those caring for special needs children, especially if there are medications to be administered and certain behaviors to be managed.
As I researched the subject matter for this article, I learned how much many of us take for granted when it comes to these families. I say that because the first place I would think to turn in need is to my family members. That is the number one answer I found in every article I read. To me, that is a logical place to turn because relationships already exist there and that fulfills the need for consistency for a special needs child to feel more at ease. But, what I did not consider was that some people do not have the option to ask family members for help. Some family members are not interested in helping or they are simply not able to.
The next suggestion would be close friends or well-known and trusted neighbors that might be able to offer a close, familiar option for a child to spend time or to come to your home, which would be much more ideal for allowing the child to be in their own element with their own familiar surroundings. Even if it is just for 30 minutes to an hour, one night per week, as this beautiful mom that spoke to me said; “it could make a world of difference.” Her main goal in talking to me about the subject was to reach other parents in hopes of letting them know that they are not alone in their struggles.
I would like to suggest to any parents that would like to support each other on this subject to form a group on social media or over the phone (if you don’t like social media). Soon, more in person opportunities will be available as well. Ideas and resources can be shared. Job opportunities could be posted in areas such as colleges and schools for students looking for experience working with special needs children, or teacher’s aides looking for extra money after school. I see you parents as true warriors. Your children and you teach us to see the world in a different light, with hope, strength and perseverance.