My professional area of expertise is in organization development. A big part of it is the concepts of informal and experiential learning, such as the things we learn without being taught. We gain knowledge through experience.
My work has been relevant to my experience parenting my kid. You don’t get a handbook for parenting a child with a disability when your child is diagnosed. In the moments when you receive a diagnosis for your child, it is common not to be able to absorb a lot of information. It’s a stressful time and it can feel like you’re expected to be up to speed right away.
Raising or caring for a child with a disability is a process, and we’re learning. We’re learning what works and what we need to use in certain contexts. For example, I’ve found that I need to take 15-20 minutes before every doctor’s appointment to create a plan and sort through my thoughts. We’re learning new concepts and terminology all the time.
A key thing here is to ensure that this learning sticks. To make sure we are learning as well as we possibly can, we need to reflect on the learning itself and realize that everything we learn to do for our kids is perhaps something we didn’t know how to do the day before.
Over time, what we’re doing is creating expertise. Having expertise is different from being an expert. In some sense, being an expert is a static concept. It’s fixed. You either are one or you’re not. As parents or caregivers, we have been in situations with our kids where we didn’t feel like experts.
However, expertise is different. It can be gained through knowledge, problem solving and experience. We are constantly developing our abilities in parenting and caregiving. By living our daily lives, navigating our way through difficult situations and by reflecting on the things we learned, we’re cultivating the skills needed to advocate for them successfully.
It’s important we recognize that we are developing those abilities daily, to feel good about ourselves and to be confident going into unknown situations, knowing that we have that reserve of expertise to rely on.
We might not know how to navigate through this particular situation, but we are the sum of our past experiences, and somewhere in those past events, there’s a good chance that the building blocks to solve this experience are there. We just need to find them.
All of the daily things we do and the lessons we learn matter. We might not be able to get a degree or a certificate for them, but they matter and are absolutely 100% a recognized learning process. There’s no handbook because we are writing it every day for the kids that we care for.
Here are some more tips on caring for and parenting children with disabilities.
As the parent of a child with mild Cerebral Palsy, I learned that the word “hurry” doesn’t apply to my son, Jason. With motor planning difficulties, hurrying just wasn’t something he could do. I learned to adapt and accommodate our schedule to allow extra time. However, when I found myself in the situation of caring for elderly parents & parents-in-law, and our son, I struggled to find the patience I once had with Jason.
Categories: Family Support