Special Needs Parents - It's time for you to make (another) tough decision.
You need to decide to let go of the limits and labels that others have put on you as a special needs family and trust your own gut to find your own path.
For those of you that don’t know, I’m connected in the special needs community in many different ways.
First, I’m a special needs sibling. My brother has Down syndrome and I grew up listening to my mom advocating for hours on the phone for my brother to get a better education.
Listening to my mom advocate fueled me to become a special education teacher. Most people think I became a teacher because I wanted to teach kids “like my brother” or because one of my brother’s teachers inspired me, but actually, it was the opposite.
I became a teacher because, as a special needs sibling, I wanted change not only for my brother, but for his friends…. Who were also my friends.
So at 10 years old I decided I would change the world from the inside of my classroom. Being a teacher didn’t go quite as planned, which is how I ended up here, with you. But that’s another story for another day.
For the past 20 years I’ve been speaking and training internationally on all things special education.
During those 20 years I became a mom to two awesome daughters. The younger of the two brought me into the world of special needs parenting. At age 3 she experienced severe seizures… and in future we can talk more about her journey, but you get the idea right?
I’m ALL IN with you on this special needs journey and now it’s time to make it extraordinary!
In fact, grab your journal and your pen, fill you cup of coffee and let’s go.
There are 3 things you have to do to get started in creating your extraordinary life.
The first one you’ve already done. You made the decision to get started.
Now think about that for just a minute. It can’t just be a decision that you make while we are here together. You have to make the decision every minute of every day to live an extraordinary life, no matter what.
Your decision will not be welcomed by many people, both inside and outside of the special needs community. People don’t like it when you want to be different than them.
I can remember when I had to make a financial decision many years ago to either get a job, grow my business or accept government assistance. Everybody seemed to have an opinion on what I should do next. Finally, I figured out to stop telling people what I was trying to decide. It was the only way to clear my brain and get the answer I knew I was looking for.
I had to make a decision of what I wanted long term and then work backwards. I had to think about what I needed my life to look like 5 years from that point and then go for it.
After weighing all the choices, I knew there wasn’t a choice. I had to go all in on my speaking and consulting in the special education - it’s where the fire was in my soul and if I did anything else, I’d have major regrets.
People thought I was nuts. Because not only did I go all in on my special education work, but I was also recently divorced (which left me as the sole financial provider for me and my daughters) and I decided to homeschool my kids.
I knew in my gut all those decisions were right for my family and because I knew the decision was right, it made it easy to ignore the naysayers.
Those years of homeschooling and growing financially while working from home were tough, but I wouldn’t trade them for the world. We had extraordinary experiences in that season which prepared us for the next decisions we had to make.
So let’s just stop here for a second and think - what decisions have you been struggling with in your special needs journey?
You need to lay them out and get clear. You have to get the swirling thoughts out of your head and write them down.
What is keeping you up at night?
Now, wait just a minute, before you start looking for a solution, I need you to really think about what YOU want in those areas.
What would be EXTRAORDINARY outcomes for each of those areas you are worrying about?
If you’re worried about your child’s IEP, take a a few minutes and write down what a perfect school day looks like for them.
If you’re worried about finances, write out what your ideal cash flow looks like in 5 years. No, you can’t put winning the lottery in as an option. Get real with yourself about the cost of a vacation, having zero debt and being able to buy groceries without penny pinching.
If your relationships are stretched thin, write down what it looks like in 5 years when you have strong, healthy relationships. Do you have a weekly date night? Does your family eat dinner together at the table? Maybe you’ve finally even found your friendship tribe that can support you no matter what.
This step of defining your desired outcomes is critical to building your extraordinary life.
You can’t skip it.
You have to be honest about it.
As a special needs family you are making 10 times the decisions as a mainstream family and long term decisions often get lost because we are just trying to get through the day.
An extraordinary life is not about just surviving. It’s about feeling alive and even on the dark, heavy days, you know that you’re not settling.
So here it is, the last step - DO something in each of those 3 areas in the next week.
Just ONE thing in each area.
Trust me, you're going to feel so accomplished when you've reached out to the teacher for more updates on your child's goals or finally set some time aside to call your best friend who you've been meaning to catch up with for months.
Building an extraordinary life requires lots of little steps that add up over time.
It’s been about 8 years since I had to make those tough decisions in both education and finances for both me and my daughters. I’m so glad I ignored those who weren’t cheering me on.
When it came to homeschooling, my daughters got the education they needed at that time. Side note... They are both back in school with their peers full time know, but I wouldn’t have changed that homeschooling decision for the world.
And as for my choice to go all in and grow my work to reach more special needs families… I wouldn’t change that either, because it led me to you, right here, right now.
Together we get to change the special needs world, but it doesn’t happen by us changing others. It starts at home, it starts with us. It begins with you deciding that you and your family deserve an extraordinary life and then bringing others along on the journey.
It's time for you to gain forward momentum for you and your family. Write down 3 decision you are struggling with, define your desired outcomes in each of those areas, and take just one step towards those outcomes in each area. Then find me on FB and IG to tell me all about it! I seriously want to hear about what you're doing right now to create YOUR EXTRAORDINARY life with your EXTRAORDINARY child.
And always remember… YOU are extraordinary.
Need to connect with other EXTRAORDINARY Moms who "get it" when it comes to being a special needs family? Find them here.
If you sit at an IEP table, this checklist is for you! Parents, teachers, therapists and support team members... you can all use this tool for your next IEP meeting!