Do you recall how you reacted when you were first told what your child’s diagnosis was?
Can you think back to that flash of panic you had about the burden it would be on your life or the major changes you would have to make to deal with their condition over the long term? Not only as an individual, but as a couple and a family unit.
As I write this, I realize my thoughts are coming out as questions, and I’m being as positive and respectful as possible in the way I phrase things. Having read a number of articles on the topic recently, I’m starting to come to the conclusion that the same set of thoughts inevitably crosses the mind of almost every parent in this situation.
The simple, straightforward answer to my question is ‘yes.’ Just ‘yes.’ No excuses, no beating around the bush. Your child’s diagnosis will change your life, and you are entitled to be concerned about your future as well as theirs. And it doesn’t make you any less of a good parent, I promise.
One article in particular has really gotten to me. It is by a mother who described the shock she went through when she received her child’s official diagnosis: a moderate to severe language disorder. As I read the carefully chosen words of her account, I could feel just how uneasy, upset, anxious and self-conscious she was at the idea of having a child labelled with a disability – and how unsure she was about facing other people’s judgment.
And then all of her “natural” parental hopes and concerns were suddenly refocused on her child.
“I wanted this little guy so much and I love him with all my heart! I want everything in his life to be perfect! […] it’s hard to accept that he may be different and even end up in a special class… I’m scared of how other people will look at him, of what his life might turn out to be if he never learns how to speak properly, of how he might get bullied…”
(Translated excerpt from “Comment accepter un diagnostic pour son enfant?” posted February 18, 2018)
As you know, loving your child and helping them get ahead in life are two completely different things.
But what if it’s simply a matter of looking at the situation from another angle?
What if, from the very beginning, when you first imagined starting a family, your expectations of a “perfect” life were too high? Think about it for a moment. If you didn’t have any hopes for your child, would there be that sinking feeling of disappointment when you heard the diagnosis? Remember that our greatest strength as human beings is our ability to adapt, our capacity for resilience.
What if, no matter what the challenges facing your child, you were confident that you were the best person to support them and provide them with the necessary resources to help them develop in their own way and at their own pace? Would you be as worried about the comparisons then?
What if, like the mother in that article, you ended up finding joy in each new word they said and in the enthusiasm they said it with, without hoping for more? Communication takes many forms: spoken, signed, written and, 95% of the time, non-verbal. That’s great news, right? It means that your child will find their own way to be understood and develop their own skills to facilitate their learning and interaction with others. It’s that simple.
Communication takes many forms: spoken, signed, written and, 95% of the time, non-verbal.
Instead of focusing on the hardship this diagnosis will represent for you and your child, why not look at it as a difference – nothing more, nothing less. An opportunity for them to stand out from the crowd and carve out their own path.
If you could see the world through your child’s eyes, do you really think it would be one fraught with worries and obstacles?
Let’s stop putting such high expectations on our children. They will end up doing their own thing no matter what. Their victories, big and small, will be their own. But victories, there will be – of that, there is no doubt.
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Translated and adapted by Shonda Secord.