Erma Bombeck once wrote: “Children are like kites. You spend a lifetime trying to get them off the ground. They crash. They hit rooftops. You patch and comfort, adjust and teach them. Finally, they are airborne…”
This is true for all children. However, in our need to “protect” our kids, parents of children with disabilities often lose sight of the fact that our kids should have goals and dreams. It is the job of us as their parents to help them set those goals and reach for the sky. Our children with disabilities – like kites – have the potential to soar.
How do you learn about and access the many tools available in your school and community to help your children become the best they can be? You can do it by networking with other families. Take time to attend trainings. Learn about the special education process. Develop strong advocacy skills.
Too often parents wait until graduation to figure out “what’s next.” In order for youth with disabilities to transition successfully to employment, further education, or independent living (with or without supports), planning and learning must begin at a young age, just like their typically developing peers.
A great place to find answers to these questions would be to attend special education trainings. Or check out Texas Project First, a bilingual website for parents. It provides correct and reliable information about special education. Parents can learn how to develop an effective IEP, write goals and objectives, and plan for transition.
As early as kindergarten, you can begin to develop a vision of your child’s future based on what they like to do. Help your child dream about a future career. Provide plenty of chances for your child to make personal choices and decisions in “real life” settings. Help them develop their own voice.
Make sure that the measurable Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals are helping your child reach that vision. Share your vision with the IEP team. Better yet, have your child share their vision at the IEP meeting.
In junior high, ensure that your child’s school begins to develop a formal transition plan, based on person-centered thinking. This plan should include the courses your child will take to reach their dreams. Family to Family Network offers a Guided Transition Program for teens and their parents to help them prepare for life after high school.
The important thing for parents to understand is that you are not alone. Build relationships with lots of different people along the way. It will make your child’s future so much richer. Celebrate progress at all levels. And take time to smell the flowers, fly a kite and have some fun along the way.
We have all found ourselves, at one point or another, comparing our child or our situation to another. The grass is always greener and you want what you can’t have—all phrases we have heard. Sometimes we must remind ourselves that we are all doing the best we can and we need to support one another and focus on the similarities, not the differences.
With every passing year in the world of being a parent of a child with special health care needs, you have the day to day struggles, the fun holidays, and some surprises. Good and bad.