The business of balance – working from home with children of special needs

When you have a child with special needs, you may have that difficult decision of deciding it might be best to work from home in order to be more available for your child. As a mum who has a son with Aspergers – although thankfully mild – I have found the flexibility of working from home to be crucial in providing him with well needed support and supervision.

Claire Bolton, a Senior Speech & Language Therapist, Speech Pathologist, Life & Business Coach gives some valuable tips on how you can balance your business and that important role of caring for children with special needs.

Parents with their own business do not have to feel guilty telephoning their boss to say that they will be late for work because little Jane has yet another medical appointment or little Joe with Autism is suddenly anxious about leaving the house for school and will take longer than usual to be coaxed into the car. Parents can be their own boss – one that is extremely supportive and family friendly!

Having a child is life-changing enough. Having a child with special needs suddenly throws parents into a new world of additional challenges and responsibilities. Most parents will not have had previous experience with special needs and may initially feel overwhelmed by a diagnosis (although many parents are also relieved to finally have a label that describes their children’s difficulties).

It is vital to always remember that a label is merely that – just a label. A diagnosis is not a prognosis and all children, regardless of ability, constantly need to have others believe in their potential to progress, focusing on strengths rather than limitations. As Helen Keller famously said, “The richness of the human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome.”

Tips for Parents of Children with Special Needs:

Look after yourself:

Parents naturally make their children their number one priority; however, children need their parents to look after themselves so that they can be the best parents that they can be. Give yourself respite by identifying those you trust to look after your child/children for either a few hours or even an entire weekend.

Accept offers of help

You are not alone. Utilise support networks of family, friends and community groups. Meeting other parents who share similar journeys will prove to be a source of strength and ideas.

Maintain a routine that also allows for flexibility

All parents juggle their lives to accommodate children. Parents of children with special needs may find that their circumstances require further flexibility as they attempt to schedule medical, therapy and/or educational appointments, as well as deal with many unexpected situations.

Do not compare

The variation in types of disabilities is enormous. A diagnosis is simply a way to categorise difficulties, but within these categories all children possess unique and delightful characteristics. Every child, regardless of their ‘label’, has incredible potential to reach the best of their ability.

Encourage Family Teamwork

Ensure that siblings feel part of the family team without the pressure of responsibility towards the child with special needs.

Surround yourself with a team of trusted professionals

Establish a network of health and educational professionals in whom you have confidence because they can answer your questions honestly but in a supportive manner.

Accept advice

The internet provides endless information and advice on every topic, which can be empowering but also overwhelming and occasionally distressing. Discuss what you learn online with professionals who know your child, so that they can further explain how this new knowledge relates specifically to your child, and reassure you if necessary.

Be gentle on yourself. Give yourself credit for taking on one of society’s most difficult roles. Unlike paid work, parents receive no training for the valuable role of raising a child, let alone the additional challenge of raising a child with special needs.

Claire Bolton

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