I asked several parents what they would say to a new parent about what they would do differently if they could. Here are their responses.
- I would focus on my child’s strengths. I would nurture and encourage them. It is through my son’s strengths that we were best able to support his needs.
- I would explore a variety of resources and programs in my community – natural supports. Options should not be limited to special programs for children with disabilities. While a special program is at times beneficial, regular programs offer a wider range of opportunities and are offered at more locations.
- I would spend less time creating a choice program and more time helping my daughter create a great life. I have learned that a good program does not ensure a good life. Person-Centered Planning changed our life!
- I would reach for the stars – presume competence. I wouldn’t let a person’s low expectations or lack of creativity, commitment and experience get in the way of my child’s dreams. I would think outside the box. Just because we’ve always done it this way, doesn’t mean we should continue to do it that way.
- I would take “expert advice” about what my son could do with a grain of salt. The advice sometimes was the opposite of what I was hoping for and dreaming of. I learned to dismiss naysayers fairly quickly. However, it still remains a challenge.
- I wouldn’t ask permission for my child to participate in a school group or club. Instead, I would ask what supports are needed for my child to participate. Then I would put them in place. When I realized I was giving people permission to say “no,” I changed the conversation. By identifying and adding supports in the IEP (Individual Education Program) paperwork, doors once closed were opened. Modifications and accommodations give all students an equal opportunity to participate in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities.
I would allow my child to succeed and fail with grace. I would allow her to take risks. Part of the maturing process for a person, regardless of age or ability, is to learn by exploration. Trial and error helps determine what is best for them. We cannot deny a person the chance to make mistakes or take risks because of our own discomfort or concern for their “safety.” The feeling of independence, accomplishment and pride may never be experienced and individual likes and dislikes never recognized if we don’t let them try.
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