Working Moms of Special Needs Children
Tips for Balancing Life with a Special Needs Child
Since graduating college, I have worked in a number of fulfilling and challenging positions that have allowed me to utilize my training and skills and left me feeling like I made a unique contribution. Working outside the home and interacting with peers is what my brain craves and what I need to live a balanced life.
Once my daughter was diagnosed with autism, my views of fulfilling and challenging completely shifted. If my nanny went to the therapies, would I completely understand how to carry the therapy over at home? If I went to therapies with her, that would mean I would have to quit my job and if I did, could I afford the therapies?
Most children with special needs have a lifelong condition, requiring parents to become an expert in the condition including how to handle the child’s difficulties and behaviors. The recommended therapy for most kids with autism starts at 25 hours per week, not to mention occupational, physical and speech. In addition, parents are finding diet impacts their children, requiring learning special recipes, buying foods they may not be familiar with – all while trying to work their job and attend to their other children.
Many children with special needs also have a lot of doctor’s appointments as well as hospital stays and need to be kept home from school more often than typically developing children.
Parents of Special Needs Children are Chronically Stressed
A 2009 study found that mothers of adolescents and adults with autism experience stress very similar to the stress felt by combat soldiers. In addition, these moms struggled with frequent fatigue and work interruptions as well as spent significantly more time caregiving than moms of those without disabilities. This chronic stress translates into an average shortening of their life expectancy by 9 to 12 years, leaving more moms stressed out about who will take care of their special needs child(ren) when they are gone.
Research has shown if your child has ADHD, this results in increased problems with family and marital functioning, disrupted parent-child relationships, reduced parenting efficacy and once again, stress.
Balancing Life with a Special Needs Child
- Family/Friend support. I was very fortunate to have the support of my family who help care for my daughter while I work and also if I need time out with friends. Many times, one parent has to give up work to take care of their special needs child, meaning the working partner is often working longer hours to assure she/he doesn’t lose their job. This can further stress the relationship. If you are out of state and don’t have a family/friend network available to you, please check with your local regional center to see if you are eligible for respite (funds allocated to assist parents in paying for caregivers) and for trustworthy recommendations.
- Examine your career path. I changed career paths and now I am a clinical homeopath, certified CEASE therapist and nutritionist. All of these helped my daughter, so I took courses to help other parents looking for solutions. My schedule is flexible to accommodate parents of special needs children so we can meet in person or Skype any day of the week. This career also keeps my daughter front and center. What I practice helps everyone, including her.
Talk with human resources to see if there are any benefits or special programs they offer to help parents of children with special needs.
- Discuss work options with your employer. Is it possible to work some of your hours while your child is in a therapy session? Can your hours shift to start earlier in the day so your significant other or family member can care for your child while you start work? Can you take on late night conference calls that others dread as part of your work hours? Examine what work items are flexible and make thought out suggestions to your employer.
- Social Gatherings. These can be difficult with special needs children, but can help you find support and comfort. There are groups that meet weekly or monthly and if you can’t find one, they are easy to start. This can help you discover if there are other therapies, better therapists and also perhaps trust in other parents that can potentially trade baby-sitting times for their children.
The bottom line is ask for help. As special needs parents, we become experts relying on ourselves to help our children, however, figuring out what you need to help your child succeed is what ends up being the driving force at work and at home.
About Sima Ash - Sima Ash of Healing 4 Soul is a clinical/ classical homeopath, GAPS Certified Practitioner and certified clinical nutritionist who utilizes a unique approach pioneered by Tinus Smits, M.D. called CEASE therapy. She became involved in complementary healing after seeing dramatic improvements in her daughter who was diagnosed with autism at age three. For additional information, please visit www.healing4soul.com. You can follow Sima on Facebook at ‘Cease Therapy California’ or phone her at 949-916-9990.