Parents of children with special needs often find themselves in a world that is filled to the brim with appointments, doctor’s visits, errands and challenging transitions that are taxing even for the most patient person. Feeling overwhelmed, and the stress that goes along with that feeling, can lead to all kinds of trouble for families of children with special needs.
Many children with special needs see physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists. There are also tutoring and enrichment activities, sports and play dates. Then you add in doctor’s visits – a myriad of specialists and follow ups. And of course there are the IEP meetings and school functions. The calendar gets full fast.
But how can you possibly keep your sanity when your schedule gets out of control? Here are five real world ways that you can implement right now to help get handle on your child’s schedule without pulling out your hair.
Accept that you will be late sometimes, and that sometimes you will miss appointments. That’s okay. If you have (as most of us do) a firm idea that you must make every appointment on time and perfectly prepared, then you’re going to find yourself stressed about it, because with a special needs child, it’s almost impossible to do it all. It’s better for your child to miss a therapy session than to have a bad one because everyone is overstressed, because that creates stress anchors associated with the activity.
Enjoy the little moments with your child along the way. In the waiting room, put your phone away and lay the magazine aside, and make that quality time with your child. These little bonding moments will make you feel better AND will help to ease some of the stress that your child is also feeling.
3. Take care
Take care of yourself. If you love fancy coffee, then stop for a sip along the way. Pull in the drive thru and allow yourself a treat once in a while. (My personal vice is french fries – I give my little girl some graham crackers in the back seat and get a large on the way home from therapy when I feel overwhelmed). You’re allowed to take care of yourself!
4. Lean on
Lean on others. You don’t have to do it all alone. Family and friends are there to help, and respite workers are available for many families with special needs. You don’t have to be there for every single PT appointment. Allowing others to take a bit of burden will lighten your load exponentially. Realize that it doesn’t make you weak to take help, it makes you smart.
Appreciate how much you’re doing for your child. Celebrate the small steps. Broadcast them on social media. Tell your coworkers. That positive input that you get from others will really help you to feel better about the whole process.
You may not be able to directly control how many interventions your child will need, but you can control how you approach your schedule. You’ll find that as you stress less, your child will progress more and everyone will be happier and healthier!