I (Jen) used to talk about “Special Needs” in terms of “my students”…and the small handful of personal friends and acquaintances I had/have that are parents to a child with special needs. I had students in my classroom with a variety of “special needs” – Sensory Integration Disorder, Autism, Dyslexia, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Learning Disabilities, ADHD, etc.
I loved it.
While challenging at times, these students brought so much joy, perspective and substance to others – children and adults alike. I was touched by each student I had the privilege to teach…but, those students that needed a little extra help, a little extra time, or a little extra “leeway” – changed me.
As a teacher in a “full inclusion” classroom for a significant portion of the years I taught, “meeting the needs of every student” sometimes became more challenging, but was so worth the extra effort. The things I learned through these experiences – information/facts about various disorders, disabilities and conditions…new teaching methods and strategies to meet every child’s needs…IEPs and 504 Plans (what they are, writing them, implementing them, revising them, improving them, etc.)…tips and tricks for behavior, and so on – made me a better educator and a better person. The influence and impact these experiences have had on me reached far beyond my role as teacher, as they have stayed with me and guided me in my most important role as a mother.
One of the strong connections between Julie and I is a genuine love of working with children with special needs. In her role as a speech and language pathologist for children ages three and under, Julie works closely with kids who have a range of special needs. Our conversations about the challenges and successes these children (as well as their families) have are always educational, insightful, uplifting and inspiring.
Even though I may have had more interactions and experiences than most with working with children with special needs, the truest sense of “Special Needs” was something OTHER families experienced. The thought that I would have a child of my own with special needs never really crossed my mind…Looking back, I have to wonder if I was being groomed and prepared for the journey I would embark on with the youngest Sycamore Sibling, who happens to have been born with Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome).
I am now fully immersed, 24/7, with part of the world of “Special Needs.” While overwhelming at times, it has been a wonderful adventure. We are just beginning this journey and in the early stages of getting know some of the incredible families and people who are on this same or similar journey.
The term “Special Needs” encompasses so much, and Julie and I realize that what we have experienced and know to this point is only a snippet of all there is to learn and experience. As part of this blog, we would love to share information we’ve learned (and continue to learn!), experiences, inspirations, etc.
I’ve learned, mostly in my short time as a parent of a child with Down syndrome, that AWARENESS is key. Awareness helps lead to ACCEPTANCE and INCLUSION – things each of us want and need…things we each hope for and pray about for our children…especially when one of those children needs (and will need) a little extra acceptance and inclusion into the mainstream.
If there is anything that we hope you might take from this part of Sycamore Sisters, it is to help us spread this awareness to others.
Clink on one of the links below to learn more.
Note: Click HERE if you are interested in learning/reading about Little Lauryn.
Children With Special Needs Links