“Being a survivor doesn’t mean being strong – it’s telling people when you need a meal or a ride, company, whatever. It’s paying attention to heart wisdom, feelings, not living a role, but having a unique, authentic life, having something to contribute, finding time to love and laugh. All these things are qualities of survivors.” – Dr.Bernie Siegel
“Special Needs” is a term that implies any situation where there is a need for something more than customary assistance. Children with special needs comprise a staggering array, from those with mild learning disabilities to profound intellectual impairment .Some have to grapple with food allergies and others brave a chronic or terminal illness .Some are challenged with minor developmental delays that they catch up quickly and others face a possibility of remaining entrenched for all their lives. Some children need help with occasional panic attacks while some face serious psychiatric problems. Many parents battle with some perils that threaten their child’s social grace, development, learning and physical or mental health.They find before them a draining agenda of getting appropriate care and accommodation while waiting for acceptance in the extended family, schools and community. There is constant stress in planning for an uncertain future; and adjusting routines and expectations. In spite of this I tend to see that it has made many families more flexible, compassionate, persevering and resilient than they were before. I want to share some lessons that their experience has taught me.
Once we are cornered, we have no option but to get centred
I have slowly started listening to my own encouraging voice instead of being overwhelmed. When there is a crisis I tell myself that I will be able to do all that I am capable of.If there is something amiss in my relationship with my child I believe that time will bring understanding.Some dreams might have to be forgotten but there are unexpected breakthroughs every day. I know that life is meant to be lived, not understood.
We become survivors by choice
Sometimes I have glanced at an MRI of a child’s brain before meeting him or her and I am honestly surprised. We all know stories of children surpassing expectations.I can confidently say that behind every one of them is a parent with integrity, creative thinking and optimism that they have amazingly cultivated in adversity.It has now been established that our brain is endowed with neuroplasticity, which is the ability to use one’s experiences to reorganize neural pathways.We are gifted with an adaptive mechanism to compensate for lost function and/or to maximize remaining functions in the event of brain injury.One can survive tough situations and even turn them to an advantage by acting as if you are the person you want to be. The hard part is deciding your role, rehearsing until you become that person, and forgiving yourself until you do.