COMMUNITY BLOG

Out of Your Comfort Zone

22 April 2021

-By Andrea Lehmensich

I am sure each of us, or most of us, never thought when we became pregnant that we would be a parent of a special needs child. Life has thrown a curve ball, and for some more than one.

Allow me to educate you. You are the most powerful person in your son- or daughter’s life. You are the one that will be tested to degrees you never thought you would be, try things you never thought you would and react in ways you never thought you needed to.

You are brave.

You are strong.

You are resilient.

You are an over-comer.

Your child’s first contact when they see life is not fair. You have to keep the sun shining for them when everyone in the world sends them rain.

Never underestimate the strengths and powers you have as a parent of a special needs child.

Please tell me if you feel the same, but I feel like my daughter’s therapist, guidance counsellor, doctor, nurse, teacher, researcher, friend, and Mom. We are there 24/7, day or night, in good times and in bad times.

I stopped counting how many times my daughter and I WhatsApp each other in a day. She even video calls me at lunch time for a few minutes so she can see my face and say “Hi”. For some Moms this may be a bit much but for me, a mom who has a daughter with general anxiety and separation anxiety, this is life Contact means everything to her, especially since I am gone by 6am and only back by 5.30pm. Its her lifeline. It keeps her in a good space during the day and I made a choice to always make her a priority even when I am away.

Our journeys with our kids are not the same and that is perfectly OK. Our kids do not have to be on the same lane as anyone else, and they do not have to rush anything they don’t feel ready to do either. Tell yourself its ok that they are different, act differently, react differently, do things differently. God made us all unique and our kids do not have to fit in to any form that the world says is normal.

Know that where you are now even on the darkest days, is where you are supposed to be and even though you can’t see very far ahead just taking one step at a time is absolutely fine.

No one can tell you where you’re supposed to be with your child, because believe me all the baby books in the world don’t help. It’s a learning process for our kids and for us, and with time, research and consistency we get better at it.

If you’re not out of your comfort zone, you wont grow and neither will your child. As special needs parents we need to think outside the box, do weird and amazing things to get our kids where they need to go. That is why Google is my best friend lol! Researching all kind of different things, from workbooks, to weighted blankets, to activities, to how to set boundaries and establish routines and through trial and error, I found what worked for me.

Necessity is the mother of invention so don’t limit yourself! You are a warrior, far more adaptable than you realize and you are the one person that will give your child unlimited, unconditional support and love forever. Never doubt the impact you have on their lives, even if it takes years to show.

God chose you for a reason as the parent of a special need child and it will change you in ways that I cannot fully explain. All I know is my daughter brought the best out of me and in doing so I have given her the best in me.

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you” – Fred Devito

 

The Positive Side of Life

10 March 2021

-By Andrea Lehmensich

‘Parenthood is about raising and celebrating the child you have, not the child you thought you’d have.’ – Joan Ryan

I am a mom to a daughter with intellectual disabilities in addition to general anxiety and separation anxiety. I work full-time, as I have not had the opportunity to work from home, so Faith had to go to aftercare etc. Faith is 18 now and has bloomed into a beautiful, kind, caring and loving young woman. I can truly say the last 18 years were very difficult and brought many challenges, but we focus on the good, not the bad and refuse to let her disabilities define who she is.

From one parent simply trying to make it, to another, this is what anchors me daily:

Joy

Find joy in your child every day. Accept who they are – the gift God has given you – and embrace their uniqueness, their special ways and the connection you have. That is something most normal parents never have with their children. Find joy in the beauty of what they say, or when they make you laugh, or how they make others feel. Our children are a gift to this broken world. They bring light into a dreary and cold world and make the sunshine just a little bit brighter. They make hope possible.

Hope

Find hope in all circumstances. Never give up, never surrender. You may need a cry, a coffee, or a day in bed, but giving up is not an option. Hope is what motivates us to get up every day and make sure their routine is sorted and that they are in a good space as they wake up and start their day. Hope is fundamental when there are days that seem overwhelming.

Faith

I am a Christian. I believe in God and I believe God’s gift was my daughter, the biggest challenge of my life, and God moulded me into the Mom she needed. He has grown my faith; He has given me strength I never thought I had, and He has been my anchor throughout the last 18 years. When my body felt so weary, my spirit was strong, and He kept me going. Giving that faith to your kids is important too, as it helps them focus on believing in themselves and shows them that they too have a purpose in life.

Peace

I can truly say God has given me a peace inside me when the chaos surrounds me – patience to deal with tantrums and issues in a calm way. Your peace is so important because the way you handle a situation is the way you teach your child to handle a situation. You must remember that we are all flawed and broken, and they are still learning how to navigate life, handle their problems and develop coping mechanisms for whatever they are going through. Find your own peace, take time for you. You cannot give from an empty cup so keep yourself healthy and find yourself. I found a hobby – painting by numbers – and it is my saving grace. I sit and do it for myself to fill me up again. Maybe read a book, go jogging, go to the gym, watch a series – whatever it is, find me time. I cannot emphasize this enough. We give a lot and forget that we must give a little to ourselves as well or we are no good to our children.

Positivity

You think they do not hear you, but they do. For years, because my daughter has anxiety, her brain would default to negative as soon as she woke up and I refused to let that happen. So, every morning I sent her a positive quote or motivational video. Just something to bring a smile. For 10 years I had been doing this unsure if it would make an impact, until one day my daughter came to me and told me about being positive and all the things she has learned. 10 years of motivating her changed her way of thinking. Yes, there are still bad days but the good days outweigh them now

Love

Just love them, that is all. Unconditional, all-consuming love on the bad days, on the good days and on the OK days. Love covers everything. It is the one thing they need when the world seems so cruel, and they don’t feel like they belong. Remember it is always the small things that matter. The time you give them fully, deciding to leave the dishes for later, sitting and watching a movie with them, going for a drive or a walk to embrace nature. Live life to the fullest capacity so that they can see that life is good.

__________________________

I did not want to write this focusing on all the negative aspects of having a child with special needs, because regardless of the challenges they face, life is beautiful, and they need to see that and experience that. We have been given this enormous opportunity to shape our children’s lives. To show them that regardless of your challenges you can rise and impact others and the world. Find their passion, focus on what they can do, not what they can’t, and grow in that. I want to show Faith every day that her struggles the last 18 years have not been in vain. That she is important, valued and enough.

I found some quotes to help you stay motivated:

“Being a mother is learning about the strengths you didn’t know you had, and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed” – Linda Wooten

“Live so that when your children think of love, fairness, integrity, and tenderness they think of you” – Author Unknown

“Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.” – C.S. Lewis

“Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.” – Christopher Reeve

My prayer is that this blog brought you a smile, a small sense of hope, and that you embrace your child and find joy in everything. Life is beautiful, we just need to focus on what is truly important for us as parents and for our kids.

Be a light, focus on small goals and achievements, and always hold on to hope.

Surviving and Thriving

15 February 2021

In this world of parenting kids with special needs, people always talk about surviving versus thriving.

Having not one, but two special kiddos have changed my life in profound ways. My motto (as a parent) has always been: “Do whatever you need to survive.”

And I have. And almost eleven years in, we are all still alive and most days doing okay.

I feel like there is such emphasis on “thriving, not just surviving” in this special needs parenting journey when BOTH are possible at the same time. And it is okay.

There are bad days and good days, drama and smiles, coffee and wine, regression and progression. Not everything is a straight line. While it can be really, insanely hard some days, don’t forget to look for the joy in moments too.

God knows exactly who He gave us as children to raise. He knows every single thing about us and still chose us to be their parents.

Most days I have NO idea as to why or what I am doing, but each day He gives me the exact amount of grace needed.

So whether you have a little angry, non-sleeping baby, or a first grader with behavioral challenges, or an eleven-year-old that still needs you to sleep by them, or a seventeen-year-old that still loves Barney and is on nappies, keep on doing what you are doing.

We may never know the “why’s” until we get to heaven and have a LONG conversation with Jesus (with video playback) and see the bottle of our tears and the crowns, but until then, keep going. You can survive and thrive and still be okay. This life is not easy, but it is worth it. One day, one hour, one minute at a time.

Sending hugs, love, coffee or tea, and wine

Heidi Vermaak

Mom of two amazing kids who have a variety of needs. “Brain damage due to oxygen loss” tends to be the “diagnosis” and every day is a surprise as to what we will be dealing with. Gr. 1 and Gr. 4 are about to start this year, so pray for us!

My Shadow

15 January 2021

I am a special needs mom to my beautiful daughter on the Autism Spectrum, and the one thing that has remained consistent since before her diagnosis:

The realization that she is and will always be, my shadow. Always with me wherever I go. 

Other than her great relationship with her sister, there are no friends, birthday party invites, sleepovers, movie nights with friends, school dances or team sports.

With being a Special needs parent comes isolation, some experience it more than others, but it is a given. It takes patience to get used to and accept the new dynamic your family’s life shifts into.

As time goes by, you learn to embrace this new lifestyle as a family and so much beauty can grow from it.  You learn things you might not have learned in life e.g what really matters in life, to be grateful for every victory, no matter how big or small, you are your child’s advocate and you are not as alone on this journey as you might think or feel.

I am grateful for this journey and remind myself of that especially on the hard days!

Written by Carlè du Plessis

 

 

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