Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Helping Hands

Parents of a disabled child often feel overwhelmed at the enormous responsibility that comes with raising a child with so many extra needs. That's one of the things that really got to me shortly after my daughter's diagnosis. I asked, "How am I supposed to teach this little girl to walk, talk, eat and all the other things that typical kids pick up by themselves?"

Fortunately there are some good answers to this question. Our first big help came from our local school district. I was amazed at the incredible program offered for children with disabilities. They have an outreach program called Baby Watch or Early Intervention that gets involved as soon as the disabled child is diagnosed or born. They immediately started sending a physical and occupational therapist to our home to work with our daughter (and us as parents) to help her start to sit up on her own, and learn to play with her toys. We were so grateful for this additional help, but it was just the beginning. They enrolled my daughter in some special developmental classes even though she was only six or seven months old when she started attending.

Now that my little angel is 18 months old there will be two or three classes she'll attend that teach eating, motor skills and even music. And there will be a new physical therapist who will be coming every two weeks along with a speech therapist that will be coming that often too, to help my daughter learn to speak! I'm so overwhelmed with gratitude when I think about all the progress my daughter's made because of these helping hands.

And the people really care! They do their jobs because they love these children and it shows in the way they do their work. Yesterday the therapist who's worked with my daughter for the last year, the new therapist taking over and the speech therapist were all there for about three hours setting up new goals and care plans. The therapist who's leaving will stay on in a supervisory kind of role, because she just didn't want to stop helping my daughter. It's such a relief to know my wife and I are not alone trying to teach our little one what she'll need to know in life.

And best of all, most programs we've been involved in are tax funded so there are little or no fees involved with receiving this kind of care for your child. If you can't tell, I'm a big proponent of seeking any kind of help available in teaching disabled children. Don't try to take it on by yourself. It may not be the cool, independent thing to do, but I learned about the time my daughter was born, that I wouldn't be able to handle her care on my own. And thanks to so many kind people, I won't have to.

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