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The little book with BIG resources!

What’s “Special” About Addressing Children’s Needs?

What constitutes a “special needs” child?  My twins were born at 24 weeks gestation, weighing 1 lb 3 oz and 1 lb 8 oz respectfuly.  I would say from the minute they were born, they were the poster children for what special needs looked like.  Austin ( 1 lb 8 oz) just needed time to grow, not that his time in the NICU wasn’t stressful.  Zachary ( 1 lb 3 oz), on the other hand, chose to challenge us as parents, the staff at CMH, and most importantly himself for the first year of life.  Two heart surgeries, one lung surgery, one hernia surgery, and two eye surgeries were just the highlights of the rollercoaster we rode together in the starting months, alone.  You want to know one of the most helpless feelings in the world as a parent?  All I have to do is close my eyes and reflect on what life was like for him.  The one upside, he doesn’t remember all the trauma that happened.  One of the many downsides, all the scars that track across his body as constant reminders of the battles that he fought, one after the other.  Try to explain each one of those to a now twelve year old…..how his body looks different than his peers.  Thankfully, other things he doesn’t remember, the fact that he didn’t eat solid foods until he was 2 1/2 years old because of an aversion of anything that had texture to it from being intubated for so long.  The many nights I would treck down to CMH after getting off work at midnight, just to spend time with him and his brother, putting on my brave face the whole ride down there.  Finding out that he had lost his peripherial vision forever, because of the laser surgeries they had to do to keep his retnas from detatching, which devastated both myself and his dad.  I made sure he received all the OTand PT I could sign him up for, in a valiant effort to keep him as close as possible to his peers, knowing there would always be significant delays.  I had him enrolled at the Early Childhood Center Preschool right after he turned 3, with an IEP firmly in place.  I have advocated for him throughout elementary and now, middle school to make sure his IEP was constantly updated to address concerns as soon as they presented themselves.  Do I find myself overcompensating because of the guilt I still feel, to this day, that I could have done something differently to prevent them from coming as early as they did? You bet I do!  I’m also extremely overprotective of them, as I KNOW what they went through.  As long as I am able, nobody else will be able to hurt them again.  That too, is part of the blame and guilt that I feel.  One thing I learned about MYSELF, having went through all this…..what doesn’t break you will make you stronger.  That is why I find myself wanting to be an advocate……a support…..for other parents who are dealing with similar issues.  If you don’t go through such a trauma, firsthand, how can you really understand what it’s like to feel the way we do?  Life changes in an instant, and will probably never be the same again.  We have to be a force for our children, to ensure that they are getting the best care possible…..in all aspects of their lives.  If we are not taking care of ourselves, emotionally, how can we expect to take care of our children?  THAT is one of the most valuable lessons I learned…..that still sticks with me to this day.

Traci L. Smith

Licensed Professional Counselor & Mediator

www.tracismithlpc.webs.com

tracislpc@yahoo.com

816-645-1990


Addressing School Concerns

It’s been over a month since school has been in session.  It always seems like the first month should be considered the “transition month” for students, as well as their parents.  Some students adapt to being back in school much easier than others.  It comes in various forms.  I can easily determine the top few, based on my own son’s behaviors.  Going into middle school has thrown my usual A/B student for quite the loop.  Of course his top struggles are in very typical areas.  First, we’ve got the whole “going from being in one classroom, with one teacher to many classrooms with many teachers” obstacle.  In a close second, is the “organization meltdown”, which ties into “inability to turn in work, because we can’t quite keep track of it” problem.  Lastly, which is of biggest concern, is the famous “not understanding the material, because we didn’t retain it over the summer months” snafu.

Keep in mind, I’m one of those parents who goes into maximum overdrive at the first instance of a problem.  What I fall back to, every time academic struggles arise, is putting things into place to address the concerns at home AND in the school setting.  If you don’t cover both, one will not be able to fix, and sustain the other.  For my son, structure at home works best for him.  That comes in the form of sitting down at the kitchen table as soon as he gets home, and pulling out his planner and homework so we can go over it together.  I have found if I don’t support him in the process, he is either unable, or unwilling, to do it on his own.  The school piece is a bit more interesting.  I have come to rely on phone calls and emails to teachers and counselors to ensure that he is finding, and establishing a support system on that end.  In essence…..communication, communication, COMMUNICATION!  Most schools should be able to put some kind of “success plan” in place for individual students, which holds them accountable at school and at home to get their business handled.  I have also relied heavily on his school counselor to pull him out weekly, to check in and see how things are going.  That also allows parents and school staff to make sure all are on the same sheet of music, just in case the student is trying to blur the lines and/or slack off because that’s the easy way to not have to be held accountable.

As a former school counselor, I understand very clearly how tough the academic setting can be for students.  There are pressures on kids that go well past the academic part of the school experience.  Of course, at times, these pressures can also overwhelm the student, which is also another way to get their focus off track and placed on things that seem more important to them, at that moment in time.  We as parents remember how that was……..wanting to fit in and doing whatever necessary to try to make that happen.

The bottom line, make sure all pieces of your students academic experience are addressed.  Part of that is putting the pieces in place to make sure that happens, to the best of our ability.  What does that look like?  Two words……SUPPORT and ENCOURAGEMENT!

Traci L. Smith

Licensed Professional Counselor & Mediator

www.tracismithlpc.webs.com

tracislpc@yahoo.com

816-645-1990