Before I get started, let me first tell you that this is going to be a very personal and candid post. As you may or may not know, I am the parent of a 12-year-old who has an autism diagnosis. As a parent of a special needs child, I experience certain frustrations that come along with having a child that has additional and specialized needs. The following is my wish list that is based on my experiences but may be shared by other parents in the special needs community.
I Wish There Were More Recreation Options for Children with Special Needs. I wish that I could just pick a sport, any sport that I feel my son would enjoy and just sign my son up. My son requires a sports team that has buddies for the children that can assist them with actually playing the sport and those options are few and far between. This sentiment could also be made for things like summer camps for special needs children that are either very expensive or have hours that are not conducive to a parent that works a full time job like myself. These camps are often either half day camps or camps that are not open every day. Not having access to recreational activities or camps restrict my son’s ability to make friends to only the people that he meets at school. Recreation is a great way for kids to get physical activity as well as a way for kids to make friends while having fun.
I Wish Resources were More Accessible. The best schools, therapy options, and recreation activities are in the more affluent areas. Parents, like me, who live in more moderate-income areas have to drive quite a distance to ensure that our children receive the therapeutic, educational, and recreational opportunities that are necessary for their success. My son is fortunate because we have a reliable vehicle and can travel to these places. But what about the mother that can manage to keep her child fed and a roof over their head but does not have a vehicle to get to therapy or to a specialized school that is best for her child? She wants the same opportunities for her child that the mother in the more affluent area wants for hers, but it is not as easy for her to get to it and that is not fair.
I Wish I Was Not So Worried About His Future. Now, I already know what you are thinking – all parents have this wish. And you are right, all parents do have this wish. I have this wish for all four of my children, but it hits different with my 12-year-old. I want my children to make good decisions that will lead them to have happy and productive lives. For my 12-year-old, I work hard now to assist him with acquiring independent living skills so that he is not a burden to anyone. My hope that if he is not perceived as a burden, he will not be mistreated. I talk to my other children all the time about looking out for him to ensure that no one takes advantage of him or try to become his caretaker just to get access to his benefits once I die or if I become unable to advocate for him. They all agree now but I also know the reality is that they will have their own families at some point and may not be as vigilant as I would like. This thought leads me to worry more than what is probably healthy.
Being the parent of a special needs child has required me to make modifications to ensure that my son has the same opportunities for recreation and education as his siblings. Some barriers are reflected in this list but special needs parents are just like every other parent – we love all of our children and have no issues with walking the extra mile or fighting the extra battle to ensure that each of our children gets what they need.
Are you the parent of a child with special needs? What would you add to this wish list?
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