A month ago, 4C released the news that it had formed a partnership with the U.S. Air Force to help military families with special needs children who are in need of respite care.
For several years, I was an Early Intervention Specialist working with infants and toddlers with special needs. My “home base” was a children’s hospital where I provided services to inpatient children and families. I often observed these parents working on their weekly family schedules. I was amazed at the amount of coordination, skill and stress involved in managing this puzzle. Just for the child I was working with, there were often multiple doctors and therapists to meet. Add into the mix, sibling school, sport and meeting schedules as well as parent work or school commitments. That didn’t include grocery shopping, cleaning, dinner or just enjoying each other’s company!
While many families struggle with balancing the demands of family life and all parents need a break once in a while, it is a more elaborate balancing act for families of children with special needs. This can create stress for each member of the family. Not only is having enough time and energy an issue, but it is often difficult finding someone to provide care for the child with special needs. In many situations, this means that the family misses activities or one parent stays home, splitting the family up. I encountered this during my work with hospitalized infants and toddlers. Having quality support helps everyone in the family, including the other children, by reducing the stress level and sustaining the relationships within the family.
Please keep this in mind when working with your families. Take some time to ask how they are doing and how the whole family is doing. Understand that parents of special needs children may not be able to make every event or program that you have. Try to help find other ways for them to be involved at your center. While not all the families will qualify for the Air Force respite care program, there are other resources in the community that offer respite care for families of children with special needs. Become a resource for your parents! Find out about other services that are offered in your area and check with your county Board of Developmental Disabilities for information for families. The Board of DD will be able to help coordinate services and they are a wealth of information for families and teachers.