It’s often a dreaded adventure for foster and adoptive parents: summer travel. Or any travel, for that matter. Often, we wonder, is it worth it? Maybe we’re safer just staying home? We’re here to tell you, it is worth it. And here’s why…
Living far from family means we travel occasionally. Four kids requires extra care when traveling on an airplane. Four kids with trauma and sensory issues requires extra, extra care when traveling on an airplane. Four kids, with medical needs, and trauma and sensory issues requires extra, extra, extra care when traveling on an airplane.
It’s easy to let our children’s bad choices, extreme behavior, or special needs defeat us and make us want to give up. But something deep inside of me refuses to let his choices define his future!
The other day Kristin sent me a text that nearly took my breath away. “About to call the police department back over the incident at camp this summer.” The incident happened between my 13-year-old son and another boy enrolled in sports camp with him. The fellow camper said something to my son, made a face, and muttered something else under his breath, and in turn, my son lost his cool, charged after the boy, punched him in the head, and subsequently threw him to the turf in the indoor soccer arena.
*Editors Note- This is a guest post by Jessica Graham. She is a mother of three kids, all of whom have been adopted and two of whom have significant special needs. Her book Beautiful Paradox: Musings, Marvelings and Strategies of a Special Needs Parent
is available on Amazon
and is free September 15-16, 2016.
As foster and adoptive parents, many of us are also parenting children with major special needs. Many of us are constantly looking back, before we began this journey, wishing someone would’ve told us what to expect.
Being a parent to a child with medical or developmental needs is as much like being a parent to a typically developing child as it is different. Parenting is hard no matter who your kid is – and no matter who you are. Also, no matter how much you prepare, experience will be your greatest teacher. But often for those of us who became special needs parents through adoption or foster care, there is an underlying frustrating – why didn’t someone tell me how it really is!
*Editor’s note- this post originally appeared in Mike’s column on Disney’s Babble.com
. To read more of Mike’s posts on Babble click here
I never thought my child’s special need would teach me how to be a better human being. But here I am, 7 years later, learning so much from his beautiful spirit and unique perspective on the world around him.
I hear the front door of our house open and shut swiftly on a warm summer afternoon in Central Indiana, where we’ve made our home for the past 15 years. It’s a few days before school start and all of my kids are a bit stir crazy. The unbearable August heat drives us inside most days by the time the clock strikes 12.
You feel a mixture of anger and compassion. You want to scream at the child who is bullying yours, but also scoop your hurting child into your arms. In these sensitive moments, how do you respond when your child is the victim of bullying?
Even though it happened more than 4 years ago, I can see that day clearly in my mind. It was a warm May afternoon in our hometown. My oldest son was playing baseball and I was one of the coaches. Because our family is always busy, that day being no different, my 4 year old son was also with me. I arranged a seat for him in the dugout, on the far right side by the water cooler, while I was on the field coaching.
If we had a dollar for every time someone said, “Well, he doesn’t look like he has Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder,” we’d be millionaires. The truth is, our child’s disorder makes it hard to see the forest for the trees.
I remember the first time my son stepped up to the plate the first year he played baseball. He held his bat like a pro. He not only looked like a miniature major league player, he acted and performed like one. With one swing, he sent a fastball up the middle of the diamond, straight into center field. When the center fielder bobbled the ball, my son had the wits about him to chug ahead, safely into second base. The crowd of parents, including us, went wild. One father turned to me and said, “You got yourself one heck of a ball player there!”
For the majority of the world, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is misunderstood and often judged. But, there are powerful truths that can change your life when you understand, and embrace them.
That’s the word that comes to mind when I think about FASD. Anger.
I’m angry at a broken world where addiction runs rampant, angry that we’ve been forced to accept a new normal, angry at the numerous therapists, doctors, and authorities who’ve downplayed or disagreed with my child’s diagnosis over the years, angry at a world that judges before seeking the truth, and angry when I think about the missing pieces of my child’s life.
In 2004 our lives, and parenting, changed forever when we realized we were parenting a child with special needs. To say it’s been a journey is an understatement. Part of the challenge has come from our encounter with professionals who fail to understand, or know how to handle, the special needs our children have.
Honestly, the list is too long to recount. In 11 years of parenting children with special needs, namely Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), we’ve lost track of the amount of times we’ve sat in an office, a conference room, or our own home and looked into the blank stare of a therapist, police officer or teacher. Nor can we even begin to list the negative, off-handed, demeaning, or accusatory statements we’ve received.