Suspecting Special Needs?


You’ve read a lot, have younger siblings, headed up a babysitting empire, have older children or just have that parent’s hunch. You may be suspecting an issue concerning the proper development of your child.  I know I did.

OAfter having four children with more or less normative development patterns, number five was noticeably different. At fourteen months, there was no babble, no language sounds of any kind. The pediatrician shooed away my concerns. At a year-and-a-half, my fears were again ignored. At age two, I finally finagled a referral for a hearing test, out of the same doctor who was still calling me an over-anxious parent. With both relief and frustration, the hearing test results were normal.  This only fueled the doctor’s pride in his certainty that I was a paranoid idiot.

To make a way-too-long story short, it took two years of special ed pre-K, speech therapy, occupational therapy and equine therapy. Add to that an FM system to help her deal with Auditory Processing Disorder, with which she was diagnosed at age 6, plus special help hours with a resource teacher, mostly to help with what is suspected to be Non-Verbal Learning Disability. That’s another interesting package, close to the autism spectrum, but not quite.

Fast forward to other accommodations to help her function in a mainstream school environment, group play therapy for social skills and suffice it to say, I’ve learned a lot from this journey with Molly. I would like to share some of the nitty-gritty with you.  Hopefully, it will help other parents navigate the potentially dark maze that vague special needs entails – with at least a flashlight to help.

Read.  Do it critically. Remember that not everything printed, neither on paper nor on the web, is true. Some of it is hyped, some is fabricated, some information directly negates other information out there – but when you’re driving around in the dark, you have to try to find a road map, somewhere. Use university-based sites, government-based sites, your What to Expect books…  Feel free to poke around elsewhere, using your educated, analytical eye. This should give you a basic beginning to your path.

Your initial research should give you

  • Reassurance that your suspicions of abnormality could be justified or reassurance that everything is probably still within the normative range
  • Terms that should be part of your lexicon concerning your  child’s situation
  • Possible future courses of action for your child

Take this information and go to your pediatrician. Hopefully, s/he will be helpful and cooperative. If not, you may want to look into changing doctors.

Identify resources. At this point, comb the internet for mommy groups. They’re in forums, they’re on Facebook, they’re attached to particular cities and they’re attached to particular issues.  Find out what your resources are, be they through your health insurance provider, your local educational system and through private clinics.

Start getting an idea of what help will help, where it’s available and how much it costs. Being a forward-thinking budgeter myself, I recommend that if this starts to look like it’s going to cost you a significant amount in out-of-pocket payments, start socking away for it now.

Moriyah 2Confirm a diagnosis. Or at least a definite need. Unfortunately, the way the system runs these days, sometimes a label is the only way to get your child the help that he or she needs.  Keep your eye on the prize, which is helping your child to become a happy, successful, contributing member of society.

To your right and to your left may stand the naysayers:  “You’re being hyper.”  “Everybody thinks their kid is special needs these days.” “Nothing can be done.”  “There is a two-year waiting list.”  I’ve heard all these and more.  I’ve metaphorically spent countless hours bashing my head into the proverbial brick wall.  I’ve spent time basking in thankful glory, but I’ve spent more time crying in frustration.  It’s all worth it when I see that my daughter is indeed, succeeding in third grade.

She’s worth it all and more… and so is your child!

Aviela is a multi-tasking, public-speaking, work-at-home mother of six decently-adjusted, mostly happy children.

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