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Good Advice for Parents of Children with Special Needs
By Nancy Kennedy

Part One of a Two Part Series

Experienced professionals and parents from Western Pennsylvania have graciously shared with the Guide to Good Health their best advice and wisdom for parents of special needs children. Whether you're a new parent reeling from the emotional impact of a crisis birth, the parent of a toddler with a new diagnosis, or the parent of an older child facing yet another transition, there are numerous resources, supports and services available to help you, your child and your family.

Take advantage of friends and family

"You are not alone in this journey of raising this special needs child.  Take advantage of friends and family who are willing and able to help.  Join Facebook groups with families who are dealing with similar situations.  Don't lose your identity, find things in your life you enjoy doing and make time for those things."

Penny Cordera, The Children's Home of Pittsburgh & Lemieux Family Center

Consistency is the Key

Consistency is the key and you are the one who can unlock the door to your child's growth and development.  You will meet and work with numerous professionals who will share their expertise with you in order to maximize your child's potential.  You are the most important person in your child's life!  Filter through all of the advice and skills you have acquired and incorporate that knowledge into your family's daily routines and activities so that your child is always learning.

Tracy A. Zeiler, M.Ed., Director of Early Intervention, teli

Celebrate All Achievements

As a parent of a child with special needs, it is easy to get caught up in the long list of things he/she may never do independently. Instead, celebrate the inch-mark accomplishments. Children with special needs must work so much harder than their "typical" peers or siblings for their achievements.  When writing goals, ask that your educational team capture good baseline information and write goals that are achievable in smaller increments.  You and your child's professional team will see marked and continual progress. Most importantly, your child will feel a sense of pride in their accomplishments.

Beth Ramella, Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children

Fostering independence and confidence is critical

Creating a healthy separation between parent and child is an essential part of the development process, especially for kids and teens with disabilities or chronic illnesses. Of course, it is natural for caring parents and guardians to assist and advise children as they get older. However, fostering independence and confidence is critical for healthy social development. Instilling confidence in children and teens helps them to gain their independence and to grow into independent adults who take on more responsibility, make decisions, solve problems, and form their own identities. Here at The Woodlands, we offer a variety of overnight camps, weekend retreats, and daytime clubs to provide multiple ways for teens to express themselves, create friendships with peers, and learn to spread their wings in an accessible, safe, and fun environment. –

Jesse Solomon, Director of Programs, The Woodlands

Set boundarieswith your professional team

"When you have services involved in your life, it is important for both the provider and client to set boundaries during the initiation of services. For this to take place, open lines of communication are essential. This is extremely important. Going forward both parties know what to expect from each other and what is acceptable or not."

Shacoya Bates, SWAN Permanency Caseworker/Caregiver Family Support Coordinator, Every Child

You Are Not Alone

"You are not alone in this journey of raising this special needs child.  Take advantage of friends and family who are willing and able to help.  Join Facebook groups with families who are dealing with similar situations.  Don't lose your identity, find things in your life you enjoy doing and make time for those things."

Penny Cordera, Educational Coordinator, The Children's Home of Pittsburgh & Lemieux Family Center

Achieva /The Arc of Westmoreland
(724) 837 8159
www.arcwestmoreland.org

Children's Home & Lemieux Family Center
412-441-4884
www.childrenshomepgh.org

Every Child, Inc
412-665-0600
www.everychildinc.org
Foster Care • Adoption • Family Support Services • In-Home Behavioral Health Care with Autism Enhancement

New Story
877-622-7245
www.newstory.com
Locations in Clearfield, Dubois, Indiana and Monroeville.

The Early Learning Institute
412-922-8322
www.telipa.org
Early Intervention Services for children with developmental delays. Outpatient Occupational and Speech Therapy also available.

The PEAL Center
412-422-1040 
www.pealcenter.org

Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children
1-800-444-1897
www.wpsbc.org

DePaul School for Hearing and Speech
www.DePaulHearingAndSpeech.org

WHS Children's Therapy Center
www.whsdocs.org



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