Having a child whose needs are a little different than those of his or her peers, or who displays behaviors that are not characteristic of a child his or her age, can be nothing less than challenging. Challenging because of the pure nature of the behaviors. Challenging because of the exhaustion that overwhelms the parents and caregivers sometimes. Challenging because of the mere sadness on a mama’s heart to watch her child struggle with these difficulties.
I recently had a conversation with a mama who made mention of the feelings and hesitancy she had in sharing the developmental challenges her son was experiencing with others because she felt like all of her friends only talked about the greatness associated with their kids, and never any of the challenges. This hurt my heart so much. A mama should never feel judged for the special traits and uniqueness of her child. I want every mama who has a child that is a little “different” to know that she is not alone and that these differences are nothing she should feel shy to talk about. Every mama should have a safe and friendly outlet where she feels comfortable expressing the feelings that naturally unveil when coping with challenges. No one ever said being a parent would be easy, but a supportive network can help to make it easier.
Noticing the differences
My husband and I started noticing differences in our son at the early age of ten-months-old. As a first-time mom, I didn’t know where to start when it came to looking for resources to help address the behaviors we were observing, so I just started seeking services that I felt would help. I identified services he didn’t qualify for; some he didn’t need; some that weren’t proven beneficial for the behaviors we were observing; and some that were promising avenues. Over the years, we have exhausted a number of services and therapies available to help my son work towards achieving his best self. After nearly three years, we have found a great mix of services that have fueled forward progress, better days, and a happier boy!
I am a very transparent person and I share this personal story for the purpose of:
1) Providing help to other moms who are seeking resources for their child, but aren’t quite sure of where to start or know what is available locally, and to
2) Normalizing the need for help and to embrace the world of personal differences. Each child is uniquely made and being an advocate for our children is such a privilege. Plus, by telling your story, you will likely help several other families. I know I feel great comfort when talking to another mama who is experiencing the same or similar challenges I am!
*By no means is the below an exhaustive list of services, but among these are some of the resources/services we have used, or that I’ve heard great things about. I am also not a medical professional, please always consult with your doctor regarding any medical issues.
Speech, Occupational, and Physical Therapy (most commonly require a referral from your child’s pediatrician):
East Cooper Pediatric Rehabilitation (Becky McFalls is absolutely AMAZING for Occupational Therapy!)
Charleston Pediatric Rehabilitation (also offer Applied Behavior Analysis [ABA])
Pediatric Counseling, Psychologists and Psychiatrists, and Play Therapy:
Keystone Counseling (also offers play therapy)
Karen Tarpey, MSW, LISW (a fantastic, compassionate, friendly, play therapist)
Charleston Counseling Center (also offers PCIT at Mt. Pleasant location)
Dee Norton’s Children’s Center (the King Street location)
Behavioral and Developmental Assessments, Evaluations and Services:
Child Find-A state program tasked with identifying, assessing and evaluating children 3-21 years old with disabilities. Qualifying children will receive developmental resources in the school.
Baby Net- A state early intervention program that matches children under three years old with resources in the community to address developmental delays.
Help Me Grow South Carolina– A free resource available to parents of children birth to five years old, serving to link appropriate community-based programs and services for children at-risk for “developmental, behavioral, or learning problems. This resource is available for those who reside in Anderson, Greenville, Laurens, Oconee, Pickens, Spartanburg, Charleston, Berkeley, Dorchester, Beaufort, Jasper, and Colleton counties.”
Identifying the available providers is one step, and another one that can be just as challenging is differentiating between services and whom/what they’re for. Here is just a small list of therapies that you might hear about or might benefit from learning about—it could just be you’re looking for, for your child.
Play therapy: A powerful therapy that enlists the power of play to help the child express their feelings through play, helping the child to communicate better, demonstrate respect an empathy, develop problem-solving skills, and help them to relate to others better (Psychology Today, 2016).
Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT): An evidence-based program that addresses children with disruptive behaviors (i.e. aggression, defiance, etc.). Through coaching, parents learn how to “decrease negative aspects of the relationship with their child and to develop consistently positive and supportive communication…and the elements of effective discipline and child management skills” (UC Davis, 2018).
Applied Behavior Analysis ([ABA], most recognized for helping children with autism spectrum disorder): “ABA therapy fosters basic skills such as looking, listening, requesting and imitating, as well as complex skills such as reading, conversing and understanding another person’s perspective. ABA also helps reduce behaviors that make it difficult for children to learn” (Early Autism Project, 2018).
Pediatric Occupational Therapy (OT): “Pediatric occupational therapy helps children gain independence while also strengthening the development of fine motor skills, sensory motor skills, and visual motor skills that children need to function and socialize” (Kid Therapy, 2018).
Cerebral Palsy Guidance: Provides vital guidance and assistance to parents of a child with cerebral palsy.
Lastly, as a friendly reminder from one mama to another..don’t forget about yourself in this process. Be sure to engage in self-care and seek support or other therapeutic resources to help you cope with the special needs of your child. A little bit of self-care yields a lot of benefits to help you be your best for yourself and your child. Limited time? Facebook has a wide variety of support groups that can help you connect to parents who can likely relate to your situation.
Psychology Today (2016). Play therapy. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapy-types/play-therapy
UC Davis (2018). About PCIT. Retrieved from https://pcit.ucdavis.edu/about-us/
Early Autism Project (2018). ABA therapy https://earlyautismproject.com/services/aba-therapy/
Kid Therapy (2018). Pediatric occupational therapy). Retrieved from https://www.kidtherapy.org/services/pediatric-occupational-therapy/