Partly Cloudy   64.0F  |  Forecast »

Raising Special Needs Children, Tips from a Veteran Metro Detroit Mom

Annie Lubliner of West Bloomfield has an adult son, Jonah, who has autism. Here are her eight key tips for any parents who have kids with special needs.

Parenting brings enormous additional weight when your child has a special need. Besides the day-to-day challenges, there is the daunting issue of planning for what is an unknowable future.

Annie Lubliner of West Bloomfield, Mich. knows this firsthand, having raised a son with severe autism. Jonah, the eldest of her three children, is 29 – "A handsome young man who has taught me some of life's most valuable lessons, ironically without intending to," says Lubliner, author of The Accidental Teacher: Life Lessons from My Silent Son.

These days, Jonah has what most people would consider a good living situation. But getting to this point was a long process that required persistence, energy and lots of help, Lubliner says. Following, in her words, is a list of suggestions she says would have been nice to have when she was starting out.

1. You can never start too soon

When a child is young, the future seems so far off. Nobody wants to believe that their child might need lifelong support services. But when Jonah was 3, a wise social worker advised us to put him on a waiting list for placement in a group home. It seemed almost cruel at the time. I wanted to believe that Jonah would overcome his challenges and be able to function independently. "If he doesn't need the spot when the time comes," the social worker said, "you can always give it up."

2. Get into 'the system'

Community mental health provides a variety of services, from respite to support coordinators. But for the child to benefit from these services, he or she must be assigned a case file number. The reality is that we live in a bureaucratic world with rules none of us is particularly fond of following. But my reasoning was always, "If it ultimately benefited Jonah, who cares?"

3. Network with other parents

No one understands what you as a parent are dealing with better than other parents. Establish relationships early, and you will have a lifelong support system.

4. Stay involved

Parental involvement is crucial. Seeing that you care and are vested inspires others to follow your lead. Try taking a team approach, set reasonable goals and avoid being adversarial. It's simple but true: "You catch more flies with honey."

5. Think outside the box

Finding employment, in Jonah's case, was the most challenging piece of the puzzle. Jonah is unable to "attend" or sit still, and frustrates easily. But he loves to eat, walk and doesn't mind lifting heavy things. With the help of an aide, he has a little business delivering cases of bottled water to area homes and offices. This "micro-enterprise" is small but growing and is a reminder that "work" doesn't necessarily have to occur in a bricks-and-mortar situation.

6. Legal matters

Guardianship issues should be in place, as well as a letter of intent, a document telling the story of who your child is, what he or she likes to do, eat, etc. – and what your vision is for his or her future. View this document as another form of insurance if you're not around.

7. Ask for help

There are people who have paved the way. Find situations that you think work and talk to the people responsible for setting them up.

8. Be realistic

Aim high but remember that "perfect is the enemy of good."

Add your comment:
Advertisement

More »Latest Articles & Blog Posts

Tennessee Law Prevents Parents from Giving Child a Hybrid Last Name

Tennessee Law Prevents Parents from Giving Child a Hybrid Last Name

Carl Abramson and Kim Sarubbi mashed together their surnames for their first two kids, but Tennessee law says they can't use the last name 'Sabr' for baby No. 3.

Sticky Fingers Duct Tape Book Offers Easy Bow Making How-To

Sticky Fingers Duct Tape Book Offers Easy Bow Making How-To

Sophie Maletsky's new guide, published by Zest Books, is packed with fun crafts and DIY ideas kids and families can make out of colorful duct tape.

Paper Craft Fun with Handprints, Garland and Kawaii Art

Paper Craft Fun with Handprints, Garland and Kawaii Art

This versatile craft material transforms into an acorn fall creation, decorative ribbon, cute Japanese critters and cool dividers for your kid's closet.

How to Prevent Your Child from Choking

How to Prevent Your Child from Choking

Mealtime can turn from pleasant to panic in a matter of seconds. Protect your child from this mishap with our list of dos and don’ts.

YouTube Moms Parody Iggy Azalea's Hit Song 'Fancy'

YouTube Moms Parody Iggy Azalea's Hit Song 'Fancy'

The rapper's had the hit of the summer, but these clever mothers made it their own, riffing on pregnancy and motherhood in some pretty funny viral videos.

Biscuit Recipes: From Classic to Chocolate

Biscuit Recipes: From Classic to Chocolate

September is National Biscuit Month, but you can bake these any time! These recipes, including classic biscuits from Betty Crocker and cornmeal biscuits from Martha Stewart, will have you reaching...

Little One-Yard Wonders Book Review and Play Mat Project

Little One-Yard Wonders Book Review and Play Mat Project

Check out a new title that promises lots of sewing projects you can make for kids. Also, for the skilled seamstress, try one of its cool play-oriented patterns.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement