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The Art of Parenting a Child with Special Abilities

Posted by Susan Sloop - Parenting

Parenting is like creating a work of art. You take a blank sheet of paper, sharpen your pencil, and begin. You draw shapes, lines and even create shadows. You erase mistakes and try again. You work diligently make adjustments and produce a work of art. Maybe it is a masterpiece that will hang in the halls of an art museum or just a nice piece to add to your collection. Either way….. it is a product of your hard work and effort.

I recently read an article titled "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Parents Raising Children with Special Needs" written by Chantai Snellgrove. The title is similar to the book written by Stephen Covey, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" for a reason. Chantai said she was inspired by the book and saw how it related to parents of a child with special needs.

As I read through her article, I applied each principle or habit to my personal experience of parenting a child with special abilities.

    • Be Proactive

    Recognize the role you play as a parent and educate yourself on every aspect of your child's development. Research any of the special abilities your child may be dealing with and know what services are available to you.

    • Begin with the end in mind.

    This is also known as "reverse engineering". Like an architect, you have a vision. You imagine what the future looks like for your child. Give them the tools necessary to live as independently as possible by teaching them now. Life skills are crucial and often overlooked in today's society for various reasons.

    • Put first things first.

    Stephen Covey writes, "try to live a more balanced existence, you have to recognize that not doing everything that comes along is okay". Set priorities and stick to them. It is okay to say "no" and not get pulled into the mindset that you have to be busy all of the time. Set aside time to spend with your child and model for them what a balanced life looks like.

    • Think win-win

    A "win-win" situation results from both sides benefitting from a decision or negotiation. Try to approach issues with your children with a "win-win" mindset. It is kind of like if they pick up their toys…they can go out to play. You win and so do they. This approach worked wonders for me when advocating on my son's behalf for accommodations at school. The teacher received the support needed in the classroom and my son received the services he needed to be successful.

    • Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

    Be slow to act and thoughtful how you react. Take time to observe, listen and understand your child. Their behavior may seem irrational and impulsive at times. The time you invest in observation and listening will allow you to react in a constructive manner.

    • Synergize

    This is a fancy way of saying "It takes a village to raise a child." Your child will be influenced by teachers, coaches, parents of friends, therapists, doctors, tutors and family. These people will play a role in helping your child reach their potential.

    • Sharpen the saw

    A dull blade makes the work of cutting down a tree much more difficult than if it were sharpened. As a parent, you are your child's best advocate. You advocate for your children whether they have a special need or not. You look out for their best interest and speak on their behalf. Stay sharp by taking care of yourself. Find ways to recharge a little every day.

    If you would like to read the original article it can be found here at

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