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parents of special needs kids can learn to be activists

Accept That Your Kid Might Be Different Than Imagined

Perhaps she’s less academically successful than you’d expected, less articulate, or less outgoing. Maybe you’d hoped for an athlete but got a bookworm. Or vice versa. All too often we’re tempted to “fix” these perceived problems and do our darnedest to make our kids into the person we’d always dreamed they would be. But this can make them feel that we don’t love them—we love our image of who they could be if they only tried harder to meet our specific expectations.

Slow Down

Family life can be a hectic scramble between work and home, homeroom and homework, playdates and playing fields. And all of that can make us some combination of freaked out, hasty, and grumpy. “We expect typically developing kids to react instantly to everything we say,” says Jackson. “But I know Ellis may need additional time to process what I’m saying. I need to give him time to understand and respond.”

Stop Obsessing About What Others Think

Any good psychologist will tell you that it’s not useful to worry about others’ opinions of you, but that’s often easier said than done. Ron Fournier, a former White House correspondent, simply didn’t know what to make of the behavior of his son Tyler, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at age 12. A socially adept person whose work revolved around interacting with important people, Fournier was embarrassed by Tyler’s blunt comments and inability to make eye contact. He realized that he had to shift his attitude the day he took Tyler to meet President Obama and Tyler said, “I hope I don’t let you down, Dad.”