28 March 2009

Breakthrough Parenting for Children With Special Needs

By Judy Winter; 258 pages. Subtitle: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Winter combines her talents for journalism and parenting in a book that is part inspiration, part how-to, and wholly optimistic about your family's survival as you take on the challenge of raising a child with special needs. It's a particularly useful guide to those just starting out on the journey of dealing with special needs, and hearing from everybody that it's too hard and their life is over and their situation is tragic. Breakthrough Parenting offers a much-needed antidote to all that gloom and doom.

Takes an upbeat approach to the challenging task of special-needs parenting. Gives parents of children newly diagnosed a voice of experience to guide them, Full of specific tips for a variety of situations and relationships. Includes inspirational stories of individuals with disabilities succeeding. Offers listings of resources with every chapter

More useful to those just starting out than those who've been at it a while. May seem too upbeat if you're really struggling. Book was published in 2006, so some resources may not be up to date

Part One: Welcome to Breakthrough Parenting for Children With Special Needs

Chapter 1: The Perfect-Baby Dream
Chapter 2: First You Cry
Chapter 3: No Labels, Yes Hope
Part Two: Guidelines for the Preschool Through College Years
Chapter 4: The Pre-K and Elementary Years
Chapter 5: Middle School, Junior High, and High School
Chapter 6: Advocating for Techniques and Programs That Work
Part Three: Focusing on the Family
Chapter 7: Embracing a New Definition of Family and Planning for the Future
Chapter 8: Preserving Your Marriage, Caring for Yourself, and Surviving the Death of a Child
Chapter 9: Meeting the Needs of Siblings
Part Four: Honoring Special Needs Excellence
Chapter 10: Honoring Special Needs Excellence
A Conversation With Timothy P. Shriver, Ph.D.
A Conversation With Dana Reeve

Guide Review - Book Review: Breakthrough Parenting for Children With Special Needs
Learning that a child has special needs can be traumatic for parents -- in no small part, because professionals tend to present it as the End of the World. They'd do a much better service by passing on this book, which acknowledges the grief that must be processed but also provides an action plan for getting on with your life and your child's.

Each section of the book starts off with a "Bill of Rights," including one for children and young adults; parents; siblings; and professionals. Among the rights Winter bestows on parents are the right to "Grieve the loss of a child with special needs" and "Ask tough questions, including Why? -- but also to "Celebrate your child's birth," "Move about freely in society with your child," and "Be proud of your child's accomplishments." Since our children are so often looked upon as nothing but tragic, I appreciated the balance.

Illustrating the points on hoping for the best for your child are stories of individuals with special needs and their families breaking expectations and living their lives. Also helpful are lists of resources at the end of each chapter that can send you off in pursuit of information for your particular situation.

If you've been a special-needs parent for a while and found your way to advocacy and empowerment and favorite resources of your own, the tips and pep talks here may be less useful than if you'd found them in the early days. Still, as your child grows and changes and moves on through school, there are always new suggestions that can help. And it may inspire you to think about how you can pass on your experience to parents starting out with trepidation, in a support group, a blog, or even a book of your own.

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