Leadership Education for Special Needs Families – The Scenic Route: Part 1

by Mary Ann on February 3, 2012

Families with special needs can love the journey

Families with special needs can love the journey

This is part 1 of a two part series on Leadership Education for Special Needs Families

Being the mother of special needs children is an honor and a privilege.  The blessings that have come to our family, through the multiple special needs of our 5 (soon to be 6) children, cannot compare to anything else.  We are blessed to see life through the unique perspective that only special needs can provide.  Life is full of difficulties and challenges for every family.  Homeschooling special needs kids provides opportunities for learning experiences beyond G-tube feedings, autistic  ramblings at 3 a.m., dyslexia,  anxiety issues and cerebral palsy, etc. (to name a few of ours.)  Homeschooling special needs kids calls for thinking outside the box, inspiring in simple ways, and continual re-grouping and re-focusing of efforts, all the while enjoying the scenic route by which it all happens.

When educating special needs families think out of the box.

I’m the kind of girl that has always thought outside the box!  I remember telling my mom when I did chores, when I was young, that “there’s more than one way to skin a cat.”  She didn’t always like the way I did my chores but as an adult this perspective helped us get through 5 years of foster care, being the parents of 22 children total (so far) and watching 17 sweet kiddo’s leave our arms.  We could not have made it through those experiences if we didn’t learn how to think outside the box.  Now, in our homeschooling experiences we are once again thinking outside that box.  You know the one…it’s the box that says what everyone must learn, what everyone must know and what everyone must BE in this world. You have to see it a bit differently when educating special needs families.

Special Needs Families have a mission

This is where Leadership Education has been a real blessing to our family.  Leadership Education has allowed us to see the great potential that each of our children has.  It has allowed the children to be measured against their own potential and not their peers.  Yes, even (and might I add, especially) special needs kids have a mission and great potential.  What an honor it is to talk with my children about their missions in this life!  They all know they have a mission, and when asked about them, the answers range anywhere from being a dad, a mom, a builder, a missionary or “A helper, Mom!”  Our children have particularly enjoyed learning about our Savior, Jesus Christ, and how he slowly learned throughout his growing up years what His mission really was.

Everyone has mission

Everyone has mission

Preparing our children for these missions has seemed quite overwhelming at times.  (The last time I got overwhelmed was about a week ago!)  I am learning that in order for me to keep peace in my life and my family I have to keep things simple!  I try to take into account the learning styles of our children and apply those learning styles to the important truths I want them to know.  This means that we learn lots of things in the form of music, poetry or rhymes, visual arts, the reading aloud of scripture stories and classics, and hands on activities and sensory based learning.  We have lots of great discussions, usually brought on by a question one of the children asks.  I still share what is mine, but in simple ways that are inspiring and interesting to the children.

When doctor’s appointments, surgeries or illness threaten the peace in our family I am learning to stop and breathe.  I take a moment to evaluate the season of life we are in and I try to be patient with myself and allow that season to run its course.   Most recently I overwhelmed myself with the pull of that darn conveyor belt.  In our special needs family not all of our children are capable of being inspired the way typical children might be.  Their challenges can overwhelm any exciting possibility and the constant life changes involved with doctor’s appointments, illnesses and surgeries, are enough to keep the door open to chaos.

I am learning something very important about myself.  I find that chaos ensues and peace is threatened when I don’t make my own study a priority.  You can’t fill your children’s cups when yours is empty.  No matter the twists and turns life throws me I have to make “You, Not Them” a constant priority.    In particular, I have to keep reading my personal cannon which includes my scriptures and all of my TJEd books.  When I allow myself to forget the great principles of life then chaos takes over and the conveyor belt starts pulling at me.  This is true for any person or family; but as the mother of special needs kids I find that I have to be even more vigilant about maintaining my life line to inspiration and not let anything divert my focus.  Of course constant prayer is also extremely important.

Education for special needs families is an adventure!

Check back Monday for the completion of this article.

The writer of this post desires to remain anonymous for the protection of her families privacy. She and her husband have been married for over fifteen years and have six children, many of whom have special needs that vary from nut Allergies, Asthma, Anxiety and Dyslexia to Cerebral Palsy, Autism, a Congenital Heart Defect and Genetic Disorders, (to name a few.)  They homeschool and are grateful for the opportunity to meet each of their children’s needs in unique and inspired ways.   As a family, they all know that they each have a personal and inspired mission to fulfill, and they enjoy discussions with their children, about the important work they were sent here to do!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Chrissy February 10, 2012 at 2:40 pm

My favorite line is…”You can’t fill your children’s cups when yours is empty. ” Thank you very much for that reminder.


Mary Ann February 10, 2012 at 5:16 pm

Ranee is amazing and I am so glad she shared with us. That sage counsel works for all of us, with special needs or not. : )


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