I’m Wendy Andersen, and my mission is to empower you to live JOYFULLY while caring for your special needs child!
Think back to when you first found out you were going to become a parent. You were thrilled! You and your partner spent hours imagining what it would be like when that new little life entered the world. Would your child look more like you or your spouse? What would her first words be? Would you EVER sleep through the night again?
My husband, Bob, and I had all of those feelings of excitement and anticipation when I was pregnant with my son. We were going to be new parents, and we were a bundle of nerves and energy all rolled into one!
Our son arrived, and he was absolutely perfect! We headed home to learn how to be caregivers. Do you remember those days of having a newborn? They’re exhausting AND exhilarating! Bob and I cherished each new milestone with our son and thanked God for our healthy, happy baby.
Then the unthinkable happened. Bob’s mom called us one Friday when she was watching our son and said something wasn’t right. We rushed home; everything seemed fine. False alarm!
But just a few hours later, I saw what had made my mother-in- law so worried. We went straight to the doctor, who recommended that we make a hospital visit immediately. As soon as we arrived, our little boy was hooked up to all sorts of medical devices and machines so that the doctors could officially diagnose him with tuberous sclerosis. In a nutshell, our son suffers from seizures due to tumors in his brain. Each episode is terrifying, and there’s nothing we can do to fully stop them.
You can identify, right? You thought your child was going to be “normal.” Only a small percentage of kids are diagnosed as “special needs,” and you had no reason to believe that yours would be one of them. But in an instant, your life was flipped upside down.
Now, there are so many questions:
- Will your child ever be able to care for herself?
- Will he be able to hold down a job?
- Will her symptoms worsen?
- How can you best educate your child’s teachers about his condition?
- How can you put together a solid, dependable treatment team for your child?
- Will the pitying looks of others ever STOP?
- How do you help your child deal with the pain of being excluded from social events?
- How can you balance the needs of your other children when you’re so busy shuffling your special needs child to all of her appointments?
I dealt with all of these questions – and many more – in the weeks and months that followed my son’s diagnosis. I knew early on that I was going to have to let go of my idea of what a “normal” life would be and embrace this new reality. I loved my son completely, and I decided that his special needs status was not going to be a cause for despair in my family.
Empowered by my decision, I set out to create a stellar support team for my son and my family. I had meetings with his teachers, showing them photos of my son on a ventilator so that they could grasp the severity of his condition. Communication was KEY in building this strong support network. It truly does take a group effort to raise a special needs child well, and my husband and I did our best to articulate exactly what our child needed to his teachers, therapists, and doctors.
However, we soon saw that caring for our son could completely take over our lives if we let it. For a time, I allowed my own health to slide. My other kids sometimes got the short end of the stick as we shuffled their activities for those of our special needs son. Bob and I knew after a short time that we had to figure out a better way to care for our son – one that still allowed us to have time for ourselves and that permitted our other children to engage in their own activities and pursuits.
With a lot of trial and error, we redefined normal for our family. We still travel with our kids, and we go on regular date nights. We’ve let go of caring about what other people think (hooray!!!), and we know what’s best for US. We’ve built a team that supports our goal, our mission, and our family’s highest good.
And the best part? Instead of responding to people with anger, bitterness, or sorrow over our son’s condition, we now lead with LOVE! We took our power back, and we live joyfully with our sweet, imperfect, yet absolutely flawless family.
If YOU are a parent of a special needs child, or a teacher or administrator who longs to help the special needs children in your school, I’ve created a program that will help you take back your power and redefine normal after a special needs diagnosis. I’ve walked this path, and it’s not an easy one. But it doesn’t have to be a dark one! Let my experience light your way, and guide you to a beautiful, vibrant, and joyful future with your special needs child!