Every child is a special needs child. Most of those special needs fall within our expectations, and that’s the reason why we don’t really consider them “special.” But other needs are completely unexpected and require a lot of effort on our part to fulfill. The only first hand experience I’ve had with a special needs child was with my first born. He was born after only 28 weeks of gestation and my wife and I had to wait almost one month before we could hold him in our arms. After we took him home, we had to feed him roughly a tablespoon of milk every two hours, and we nervously had to wait almost another full month until he was heavy enough (five pounds) to have hernia surgery. His first year or so, we closely followed his development, and fortunately everything turned out as well as it could.
I don’t pretend to compare my personal experience to the one that some parents of special needs children have to endure for years, but I have no doubt that Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) can help. NLP is a relatively new field that focuses on studying the structure of our subjective experiences. All of our experiences are subjective, and figuring out what happens internally (how we manage to get from point A to point B), gives us the power to choose our destinations and make sure point B is a positive state for us and for the person with whom we are communicating. The situations around us are nothing more than that: situations. It’s how we experience them that makes them “problems” or “opportunities.” I’m sure that the tips that I’m going to share with you, that I have learned with NLP, will help you cope with your situation and look at it and at your child with a new perspective.
1. Be patient
As I stated at the beginning, those “special needs” are actually “unexpected needs.” It’s natural to be uncomfortable, confused, anxious and/or worried, because we don’t know what to expect. But with patience and the right guidance, we can overcome those negative states and settle into the new situation, making it easier for everyone involved and opening the door to new, more positive experiences.
2. Be curious
And pay attention. Every moment spent with your special needs child provides you with more opportunities to learn about the way they experience the world and how to better communicate with them and fulfill those needs. The more you know about your child, the easier it will be to find the best way to communicate with them, and the best way to know about them is to pay attention and (if possible) ask questions.
3. Be flexible
We are all accustomed to doing things a certain way. And we all get upset, confused or frustrated if what we do doesn’t yield the results we expect. “Impossible” is just something that hasn’t been accomplished yet, and the only thing we can be certain of, is that if what we’ve done hasn’t worked, we have to try something different. Developing the curiosity of my previous recommendation, the flexibility to try new and different ways to accomplish your goals will come naturally.
4. Enjoy the moments
We have the power to focus our attention on anything we want, and usually (because we are all accustomed to doing things a certain way), we focus on the bad. But if we pay attention, we can shift that focus and really enjoy the little victories we’ll start to accumulate by being curious and flexible and looking at the situation and life in general, in a more positive way.
5. Be patient
Chances are that the most significant improvements (which will undoubtedly come) will happen later on. That’s one of the reasons why it’s so important to learn how to enjoy those little victories that will come first and will motivate us to continue exploring new possibilities and alternative options to constantly improve the situation.
Every experience we’ve lived as children, adults and parents is programmed into our minds. Those experiences make us individuals full of resources we can use in any situation, but we constantly limit ourselves to the ones that we unconsciously think we should use. Give yourself the permission to be better and happier than you think you can be, and you will! As you change, the people around you, including your child, will change for the better, too.