Raising two young children with disabilities was at times overwhelming. I worried a lot. Would I be equipped to meet their complex learning needs? What resources were available to help me navigate the road ahead? How would I prepare them for life after high school?
Looking back, I realize some of the most helpful information and guidance I received in those early years was from other parents. So, now that my children are older, I’d like to share some of my favorite resources and suggestions.
Top 5 Things That Helped Me the Most
- Connecting to parent disability groups, such as Family to Family Network for resources, information, and parent trainings. Also, joining local support groups (find a group in your area on the Find Services and Events page).
- Using the resources and programs available at Hanen.org to help my children with speech, communication, and early literacy.
- Building relationships with providers (therapists, social skill coaches, etc.). Saying “thank you” with gifts of sweets, handwritten notes, kind words, etc.
- Using brain training exercises (i.e., cognitive enhancement) to help my children improve memory, attention, speed, problem-solving skills, etc. Some resources that helped my children were: Ultimate Speed Reader, Brain Age by Nintendo DS, Lumosity and LearningRX.com.
- Implementing structure, structure, structure. Visual tools (some I made using key rings and index cards), picture schedules, activity books and token systems helped us with routines and behavior at home and in the community.
Top 5 “Must Have” Resources
- The IDEA Manual to help navigate the Special Education Process
- Wrightslaw Special Education Law and Advocacy resources, especially their online newsletter and their “Wrightslaw: Special Education Law” book, written by Peter & Pamela Wright.
- Resource Guide for Parents of Children with Disabilities by Elaine Hime.
- Resource Guide for Special Needs by the Arc of Greater Houston.
- Mikey’s Guide resource listing of summer programs and camps. Note: Camps fill up very fast, so sign up early!
Top 5 Things I Would Have Focused on More
- Preserving my marriage.
- Taking care of my own health.
- Building and making more friendships for my children and myself.
- Teaching my children computer skills at a very early age.
- Not rewarding with food!
While no two parents will have the same “Top 15” list, sharing our personal experiences and resources is so important to helping other families of children with disabilities. I hope one day that you will share your “Top 15” list. After all, we are all on this journey together.
Find out more about connecting with other parents and much more in the Family Support section of this website.