Before you become a parent you do a lot of reading and researching. You read What to Expect and (the more honest) Girlfriend’s Guide. You sign up for every blog, baby website and scour the Internet for a small glimpse to your highly anticipated new life.
You give birth to a healthy baby and rejoice. You ask Jenn before making any rash decisions. Then you quote her when you say, Well Jenn said it was okay to not the wash baby clothes before you put them in the dresser. You choose to breast feed or bottle, whatever is the healthiest choice for your family.
As your child grows, you look to older mother’s as guideposts. You compare and contrast parenting techniques. You secretly judge other parent’s “poor” parenting and start planning for your child’s Ivy League college experience.
There is really no pre-parenting training or manual. Most of a parent’s learning is on the job, but with well-seasoned mentors.
That’s with a healthy child, like my first born.
My second child? It’s like parenting with not only no manual but no safety net.
When your child is born with a health issue, you still scour the internet. You utilize Google like its the Encyclopedia Britannica and the Holy Bible rolled into one. You do not have parent-mentors, you feed your child whatever they will keep down or tolerate (sometimes it’s diet of Fig Newtons) and cry as you give up the dream of your child’s Ivy League experience.
You make a lot of mistakes.
You begin Early Intervention and more therapies than you knew existed. You are handed consult reports and evaluations. You sit in therapy sessions with your child, trying to figure out what is going on. How can the PT do that maneuver? You start Speech and wonder if it is too soon or too late. You watch the therapist try to get your child to communicate, not understanding that language isn’t just verbal. Your child begins to start Occupational and Hydrotherapy, two things you had never even heard of before. In truth you thought Occupational therapy was something a new trainee did at the local grocery store.
If able you enroll your child into the public school system. You have your first IEP meeting, read another set of evaluations and trust that the plan they put into place with goals you don’t understand is right for your child. You read goals like “child will follow a two-step direction with 80% accuracy with minimal prompts”. You understand the meaning but not what the words “mean”.
You are confused and faking it.
You are making so many mistakes you start questioning everything and everyone.
You are parenting without a net.
You trust the team created to make your child the best they could be, but you are intimidated by them. You know you are supposed to do the homework, you know you are supposed to make your home a therapy-rich environment. You learn the term ABA and try to figure out how to do it on your own.
The team is great, they adore your child and have only their best interests in mind. But what comes easy to them, is difficult for you. As a parent you feel discouraged and inept.
You forget that you are doing all your training on the job. You forget that the doctor has had over 10 years of training and more than that in that one specialty. The parent has to be knowledgeable in all of them. You don’t think about the therapist who went to undergrad and then grad school plus internship before working with children. The parent has to learn how to do ABA, OT, PT and SPT with no formal education. The Special Education teacher and educational support personnel who had training specifically in ABA, teaching the unique child and special needs that a parent has never been exposed to. That all of those who treat your child have hours of continuing education, seminars and training every year.
But not the parent.
The only training the parent with special needs gets in on the job, there are few parent mentors. The team is busy treating the child (and other children in their care) and that is their job. But who trains the parents? Insurance companies (sometimes) pay for therapies, but that is for the child. The therapist might bring the parent into the room, but their focus (as it should be is on the child). The parent watches on, but is clueless once they get home.
The same is true for the school. They work with our child for 4-8 hours a day. We have no freaking idea what they do. We know we get progress reports and we try to balance our hopes with the reality of what our child may or may not be able to accomplish.
The truth is, we are doing the best we can with the limited knowledge we have at our fingertips and a hope that Google will provide some direction. We do not have access to continuing education, to know how to import what is taught in the controlled therapy room into our chaotic household. Most times those who care for our children never see the demon child we see at home. School sees “happy” we see “meltdown”.
We parents see the best and the worst of our children, we never stop believing in our child’s potential.
If only we knew where to get the training to increase their success.