Having a child with special needs, I have discovered, means you know a lot of letters you didn’t know before. There is IFSP, NICU, IEP, MRI, SLT, OT, PT and all sorts of others. Sometimes these letters and what they stand for can feel like they will take over your life. For those of you who don’t travel in special needs circles I will give you the meanings of these letters.
IFSP-Individual Family Service Plan (this is the document that you write with your local early intervention program to get services such as physical therapy)
NICU- Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (hospital nursery where premature babies go)
IEP- Individual Education Plan (this is the document that follows the IFSP when a child starts school, it spells out what kinds of help that child should receive in school)
MRI- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (picture of the brain)
SLP, OT and PT- Speech therapy, Occupational therapy and Physical therapy
Recently, I was in a meeting with Joshua’s services coordinator where we were reviewing his IFSP for the year. She began to talk to me about what we were going to do when he gets to school. I realized that in the course of a short conversation we had used all of the above abbreviations. I realized that I have developed a vocabulary that most people don’t have. Having a child with special needs changes you life, and your vocabulary is just a small indication of that. As we consider adoption another child with special needs I realize that this new lifestyle and vocabulary will become even more intrenched in our lives. And that is just fine with me. I find purpose and meaning in helping Joshua achieve what he is capable of. I feel like we have really embraced the fact that he has some challenges both now and in the future and we are doing all we can to help him overcome those.
Our services coordinator was talking to us about needing to transition Joshua from early intervention to being under the umbrella of CMS, our local school system, when he turns 3. That is how things work around here. In order for that to happen and for him to continue to receive the therapies he needs we will have to write an IEP. For those of you not familiar with this term it can strike fear into the hearts of some parents. In order to write this document you must admit your child has special needs that require help. That is not an easy point to come to at times. I will admit we had hoped that when Joshua was discharged from NICU at 3 months old and things looked good for him that we would avoid all this sort of thing, but we were nieve in that. I realize now that the best thing we have done for him recently is to admit he needed more help than we could give and get that help for him. But you can understand what a hard road that decision is for parents. So, we will be writing an IEP for him over the next year. The services coordinator was surprised that with Glenn in education we were so willing to accept this idea of an IEP. Often times educators resist the idea for their own children because they see what children can be like that have IEP’s, there are good and bad things to every situation.
Knowing that I will someday, most likely, have two children with IEP’s who are labeled “special needs” does not bother me. I feel like God has placed these children in our lives for a reason and He knows that we can handle it. I have heard recently, since we have announced our adoption plans, people say to me that they are surprised we are considering special needs. I too would have been surprised by this idea a year ago, but God has changed our hearts and minds. We know God has placed Joshua, and his special needs, in our family for a reason and that He would have us consider a child with special needs in our adoption plans. This is not something I would have ever thought I would be doing, but God has a way of changing your plans and changing your heart. It is in our hearts to parent children with special needs and we are doing well with it. The social worker who helped us with Joshua’s adoption told me as we were going through our homestudy that she thought we would be good parents for a child with special needs. I just thought she was crazy, honestly, and moved on. But when we found out Joshua had some special needs her words came back to me and over the course of this year, in dealing with the lifestyle changes that have a child with special needs brings, I see she was right. I handle the millions of doctor’s and therapy appointments very well and the constant advocating for my child in getting him whatever services he might need. It can be a full-time job, but it is something I am good at and enjoy doing, for the most part. 🙂
I will be proud to continue to learn more letters than I knew before as bringing another child with special needs into our family will inevitable do. I feel like I speak another language and that language is one that is shared with all mother’s with children with special needs. It’s a knowing smile and an understanding that we have for one another knowing the hard moments and triumphs of having a child with special needs. There is nothing better.