This is a guest post by our good friend, Courtney Westlake. She is the author of A Different Beautiful
. She lives in Illinois with her husband Evan and two children, Connor and Brenna. After Brenna was born with a severe skin disorder, Courtney began chronicling family life and experiences raising a child with physical differences and special needs on her blog
. You can also follow her on Facebook
You really want to speak up, because, you’re a mama bear (or papa bear). It’s so hard to let them stand on their own when you’ve spent so much time advocating for them, defending them, and fighting for them. But there’s a time and place to stay quiet and let them stand.
I wanted to insert myself into the conversation happening a few feet away from me, to explain and to defend, but I held back. I craned my neck a bit, waiting to hear what my children would say to the little girl who had just asked about my daughter’s red, peeling skin.
Most of us who are parenting children with special needs, had some sort of advance warning that our children would have a disorder or diagnosis that would require extra attention and care. Our guest on today’s episode had none. In fact, she was planning for the complete opposite.
Imagine being pregnant for 9 months, expecting to deliver a normal, healthy child, and suddenly, in the delivery room discovering that your brand new baby had a rare skin disorder that could pose a threat to her life. How would you feel? What would you think in that moment? Would you feel lost…broken…maybe hopeless? You would no doubt feel dismayed. Courtney Westlake and her husband, Evan, had no idea their new baby girl, Brenna, had a rare skin disorder until the moment she entered the world. But in the years since, they’ve discovered a different beautiful. I’m excited to share their story with you in today’s episode…
This is a guest post from our good friend Ryan North. He is the Executive Director of Tapestry, the Adoption & Foster Care Ministry of Irving Bible Church in Dallas, Texas. As Executive Director of Tapestry, Ryan also leads Empowered to Connect. He frequently writes and speaks on connected parenting and ministry leadership. Read his blog here
and connect with him on Facebook here
Parenting is tricky in general. But parenting children from traumatic places is tricky on an entirely different level. It often leaves you exhausted and bewildered. How can you be successful when it takes so much out of you?
I was invited to speak at the Florida Foster/Adoptive Parent Association Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida last weekend. It is always a special privilege to share with families who are in the trenches. I love meeting them, hearing their stories, and being able to share information and experiences that can help them on their journey of hope and healing. I find it easy to be vulnerable with like minded people. I feel like I want to open up to them, honestly, it’s very therapeutic. Perhaps that is what I ultimately like about having the opportunity to speak at events like this one.
We used to think that carrying a piece of drywall around with us so we could bang our head into it every time we had to re-explain something to our kid, or try to reason with him, was the ticket. And then, we discovered a better way to connect.
A friend and I were recently talking about our kids when he said something I totally identified with- “Mike, he just doesn’t think. It’s like there’s no ability to think logically. I tell him to not do something and he does it anyway, even though he knows he’ll be in trouble!” I nodded and repeatedly said, “Yep, I know. Right there with you.” If I had a dollar for every time I was in this position…..retirement come early!
Believe it or not, summer is the perfect time to start planning for a new school year. A few weeks ago we shared a podcast episode entitled How To Form Healthy Partnerships With Your Child’s School. As a follow up, we wanted to share additional steps you can take now, to form a solid connection with your child’s school before the new school year begins.
It’s almost summer here in Indiana! My kids are planning trips to the pool, playdates and sleepovers. I’m tempted to get caught up in all the summer fun daydreams. But before I can break out the flip flops, I remember I’ve got to start planning for the next school year. I’m the mom of a few children with special needs. School can be stressful for our family, summer is a wonderful time for us to reconnect, build our relationship and just plain relax. It’s also a time to get prepared for the inevitable start to the new school year.
For millions of families, summer break is all about staying up late, sleeping in, and hanging out by the pool, when they want, for as long as they want to. But for those of us parenting children with special needs, summer break can spell disaster due to lack of structure. How do you successfully navigate this season with children who thrive in structure and routine?
We would have drained our bank account to register our kids for every summer camp on the planet last year. We nearly did. Parents of normal functioning children may raise an eyebrow, or two, at that statement; even call us bad parents. But, unless you are in the trenches of parenting children from trauma, with attachment issues, or disorders like FASD, you don’t understand the enormous need for structure and routine.
One of our greatest passions is equipping foster, adoptive, and special needs parents with the best resources available. Recently, I compiled a list of the top 7 books every foster, adoptive, and special needs parents should read.
If any of my middle or high school teachers, or college professors came across this post, they would laugh. That’s because I barely read a book through my school days (if you call cramming an hour before a class reading… :-)). Can’t recall one time I read an entire book, cover-to-cover throughout my childhood or college career. So, the fact that I later became an author and blogger, and now sharing a post on book recommendations, is irony in it’s finest form. Seriously though, in my adult years (the past 10 to be exact), I’ve found incredible value in reading books, especially in my continuing education as a parent. There are a few titles I believe to be critical-consumption as it relates to our unique journey.
One of the biggest struggles foster and adoptive parents have, is formulating a healthy partnership with their child’s school. Usually this has to do with IEP meetings. In this episode, however, we are looking at a different angle.
In the past we’ve discussed, in-depth, IEP meetings, how to advocate for your child, what to say and not say, do and not do, and which important details you need to disclose to better advocate for your child, and his or her special need. But what about your child who doesn’t have an IEP, or need one? Educationally, they are on track, but they’ve still come from a place of trauma. How do you effectively communicate these details to better equip the school, and ensure the best possible school year for teacher and student alike? Today, we share valuable keys you can utilize as you and your child’s school prepare for the upcoming school year…