Monday, October 15, 2012

31 Days of Support—Day 15: The Importance of making friends within the special needs community

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After receiving Cami’s diagnosis of visual impairment, we did our best to provide her with appropriate services, including early intervention and a special education preschool program.

At the end of her preschool year, we debated whether she should repeat an additional year of that program or go ahead and start kindergarten. Ultimately, we made the decision to have her begin kindergarten as scheduled, placing her in a mainstream classroom. Though she faced a few struggles throughout that year, she also made significant progress.

She was moving right along.

However, by the middle of her first grade year she began to struggle quite a bit academically. We, along with her teachers, began to notice several particular tendencies. These concerns led us to begin our journey of seeking answers.

In the midst of our endeavor, we faced several major life changes including two job changes, three different insurances, a move, a new church and a different school for Cami (all in the time frame of 7 months!).

Needless to say, these changes caused some setbacks in our quest.

We had a positive outlook upon Cami entering her 2nd grade school year, but the further the year progressed the further she fell behind academically.

Because we’d been told for years she would catch up to her peers, we grew frustrated and concerned when the opposite took place—the gap seemed to be widening.

As her mom, I knew there was an underlying issue growing more obvious as time elapsed, but I wasn’t sure of what steps to take in order to receive answers. I also struggled with guilt over my delay in seeking answers, worried that I’d lost precious time in receiving necessary help for Cami.

Uncertain of what to do, I became overwhelmed and discouraged.

I felt helpless.

During those dark moments of doubt and despair, I received an amazing amount of support not only from my husband (who has always been my greatest encourager), but also from my mom and my sister.

My sister Holly encouraged me to be proactive in seeking answers rather than waste time and energy in wondering or waiting. She called or texted daily, sharing inspirational quotes and Scripture, reminding me to focus only on the next step.

At one point, she also encouraged me to seek out other parents raising a child with special needs in order to surround myself with friends walking a similar journey—to seek support from others walking a similar path.

However, other than attending an annual picnic for parents whose children were blind or visually impaired, I hadn’t focused on establishing friendships within the special needs community since joining a support group during our NICU days.

Why?

I underestimated the importance of making friends within the special needs community.

I’m ashamed to say that I had developed an I-can-handle-it-all-so-I’m-going-to-figure-it-out-on-my-own attitude, neglecting to reach out to others who could offer invaluable support through their firsthand experiences.

I had also neglected to acknowledge the fact that while God alone is my strength, He also provides help through individuals He places along my path.

Tomorrow, I plan to share how the Lord used a conference to show me the importance of making friends in the special needs community, revealing His guiding hand upon every aspect of my journey.

Your Journey: Did you jump right into establishing friendships within the special needs community? If so, how?
 
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Have an extra minute? Click on a box below to check out a three of my blogging friends also participating in the 31 Days series, hosted by the Nester:


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