by Jen S.
I don't know about you, but I don't know anyone who has dreamed of having a special needs child. God may have placed a calling on your heart to be open to a child with needs beyond the norm, but it isn't something people lok forward to with eager anticipation. When we think of becoming parents biologically everyone says, "as long as they are healthy." Well for many that isn't the reality. And when we foster or adopt kids from hard places parental choices or experiences have left those kids with baggage. Some of the baggage is carry on size, while others carry a trunk full. Either way these needs take a lot of extra work and the learning curve is steep.
My kids all have baggage. Some of it is emotional/behavioral while others have medical baggage. When we said yes to each of them we knew the risks but did not fully grasp the realities. We weren't looking through rose colored glasses, but you can't know what life will be until you live it. When case workers and doctors start thowing terms at you like FASD, ARND, RAD, ODD, SPD, PICA, CP, CVI, ADHD, and the numerous other acronyms that we encounter it is overwhelming. It's intimidating.
If you as a foster or adoptive parent have opened your heart to the possibility or reality of a child with special needs, then you my friend have become one of the fiercest of warriors! We learn to fight for our children in a way parents of typical kids don't have to. I usually refer to parenting my children as parenting on steroids: there is no room to let down my guard or take the wait and see approach. We have to charge ahead with full force to ensure our kids have the most support possible, so that they can reach their fullest potential.
When we have kids with challenges the biggest adaptations come from us. We have to learn a new way to parent. It won't be the picture we saw when we dreamed of having a family. We learn about early intervention, IEP's, 504 plans, PCIT, Theraplay, Brain Balance, EMDR and so much more. As a special needs parent you need to educate yourself. Learn as much as you can from as many sources as you can. I promise you there are tons of therories and schools of thought. Find what is right for you and your child! Don't let someone push you into what they feel is best. It has to be workable for you. Advocacy becomes a way of life. Special needs parenting can be very isolating, but I have found that when I reach out to the special needs community you can find some of the best encouragers.
So no matter how much baggage your child brings, know that the most important thing to remember is that you don't have to carry the load alone. Reach out. Find your support team and lean on them. Learn from those who have gone before you. And know that God is going to give you the equipment to be exactly what your child needs!
Jennifer is a 40 yr. old wife and stay at home mom. She has been married to Ryan for 18 years. Their 4 children joined their family though international and foster adoption. Together they have fostered for 8 years and welcomed over 70 children into their home. Jennifer has a love for travel, her big crazy family, and tiramisu.