Nothing makes you doubt your ability to do a job correctly like becoming a parent. When you are a special needs parent, the self-doubt is much worse. Some of it is internal and comes from a place of self-doubt and blame.
What did I do wrong that my child has special needs?
I should have read to him more.
Do I let him watch too much TV?
Some of it comes from external sources. Strangers seem to have an opinion on which therapy you should try when they have never had a special needs child. HINT: this is a sure way to piss off any special needs parent.
Here is a secret that I will share with you. Every special needs parent is already a rock star, already a rainmaker, already a hero.
Here are my tips that help me feel like a rock star, ass kicking special needs parent.
1. Throw away every child development checklist.
You don’t need that negativity. If you are a special needs parent, then you know your child’s development is different from the norm. Those checklists are normed on a population that is not special needs. You already know that your child is behind in areas of development, and you don’t need the reminder.
2. Network with other special needs parents
Other parents of special needs children are now your developmental checklist. They know about the sleep deprivation, children that take years to potty train, diapers being worn into elementary school years, non-stop therapy appointments, and battles with schools over accommodations. American Military Families Autism Support (https://www.facebook.com/militaryautism) and Military Special Needs Network (https://www.facebook.com/militaryspecialneedsnetwork) are two excellent places to start building a network of support within the military community.
3. Know what pumps you up
As a special needs parent, you will have to advocate for your child. It might be with the school for adequate accommodations or with TRICARE to get a specific therapy covered or with their PCM to get a needed referral to a specialist.
Know what gets you in the mood to fight. I know one friend listened to Katy Perry before an IEP meeting. I feel more confident when I come in with bookmarked sections of Wrightslaw “From Emotions to Advocacy.”
4. Have a cheerleading squad
Some days are hard, and my inner critique refuses to be quiet. I start to blame myself and feel like a bad mom. Thankfully, I have a cheerleading squad. My friends remind me of all the amazing things I do on a daily basis that I think no one notices. They help quiet my inner critique and they make me feel like super-mom. I know that super-mom does not really exist, but my friends are so positive and uplifting that I believe I can do anything after talking with them.