Bonnie Landau from Special Mom Advocate is here with a guest post on how she has learned an important mindset shift because of her son.
When we’re pregnant we have certain expectations of parenting that seem so ideal and wonderful. The walks with the stroller, teaching our kids to games, watching them grow, learn and flourish. It’s quite a shock to the whole mental system when you realize that your child is not developing normally; that something is off, and nobody can really tell you why or how to fix it.
That was my situation. Our son did develop normally, but at 18 months he began to regress. There were no answers, except murmurs of possible autism or something they couldn’t define. He started speech therapy and occupational therapy, and I anxiously hoped that would fix whatever this ‘problem’ was.
What I did not realize at that time, was this little precious boy was going to force me to change radically in order to be the best mom I could for him. I am talking a serious 180-degree shift from the quiet, perfectionistic designer I was into an assertive, problem-solving advocate. My son has been my greatest teacher, and it is because of him I help other parents find answers for their children with challenges.
For over 25 years I’ve been a web/graphic designer. I loved my work, always relishing a new design or technical challenge. But when my son was 6 we were told he would need group home care as an adult, and nobody would help me find solutions to change this future. So I had to put my problem solving brain to work on finding a way out for him.
I began researching and talking to people and filling my brain with new facts about neuroplasticity, processing and brain therapies. I was quick to realize I had a knack for this thing. When my first hunch about auditory processing disorder proved to be true, I knew I was on the right path to helping my son get better.
You see, while the neuropsychologist told me he’d never be normal (whatever that is), my intuition told me that was not his destiny. Some say I should have accepted him the way he was, but my heart said he was trapped in a brain that wasn’t working right. He could improve if I could only find the right solutions. That instinct led me on this learning journey that has now turned into a second career for me.
I am a special education advocate, but more than that, I’m a special needs parenting coach. I can help you find the underlying root cause of neurological problems, and I can point you to specialists who can improve or even recover those problems. I will work with you to teach parenting techniques to manage difficult behaviors, and I will provide tools you can use on a daily basis to minimize these behaviors. Together we can find a way through so your child can flourish despite the challenges, and you can feel less anxious about his future.
My older son is the best teacher I ever had. My love for him forced me to grow and respond in ways I never knew I was capable. I learned that I can remember volumes of factual information, and then puzzle it all together when faced with a group of symptoms that do not seem to relate. Because of him, I am able to be of service to parents who desperately need answers, and I feel fulfilled in this journey.
All that I learned finally came to a head when I decided to write my book, Special Ed Mom Survival Guide: How to prevail in the special education process and find life-long strategies for you and your child. The words I wrote share a lot of my own journey and the book contains all the things I wish I had known before I had begun. From understanding the emotional toll this takes on a mom, to knowing how to stand up to a school that keeps saying no; this book is my gift to all parents who struggle on the special education path.
People rarely talk about the emotional side of the journey, and what you can do to avoid the stress pitfalls that are certain to come up. That is why 1/3 of my book is dedicated to these topics, so you can get your thoughts into the right mindset, and you will regularly care for you. You need to be in the best shape possible to care for others, and I emphasize this over and over in my book.
I realize a book can only help so much, so that is why I also started my business, Special Mom Advocate, which focuses on finding and advocating for the best possible services and solutions for your child. In my work I help parents talk to the schools, negotiate for services, or make hard choices when the fight becomes overwhelming. Outside of schools we look for underlying causes of difficulties and seek out solutions that help the child improve. Throughout the process my experience with my son allows me to be right beside you, with great empathy, and with knowledge that gets results.
My work is not always fun. Sometimes the schools put up a good fight. Sometimes a solution does not help. Sometimes the parents are so exhausted they do not have the energy to keep going. Then there are days when we get what we ask for, the right solution is implemented, and the child finally reaches a new milestone.
The best part of my work is when a parent reports back that the therapy I suggested made a massive difference. Like the mom whose child was having extreme difficulty reading, and based on his symptoms I recommended a behavioral optometrist for possible vision therapy. Six months later she called very excited to let me know he had been doing the vision therapy, and he had caught up to reading at grade level now that his eyes were working right. It’s very gratifying to have helped guide her to a choice that made such a massive difference.
For me, I am most grateful to my son whose challenges forced me to discover a new part of who I am. While I found all the therapies and strategies, he’s the one who has had to live them. He’s been a trooper through the whole thing, learning in the process what it means to try hard, even when the trying feelings impossible. He has gone from a child who was destined for group home care to a young man who is an honor student and destined to go to college to learn engineering.
It is because of him I do this work. Because I know there are many more like him who have parents who need guidance and support. Once we find the right answers, then there is no telling where these kids will go!
6 thoughts on “My Child Taught Me to Be an Advocate”
You are absolutely rockin Mamahood!!! Not only with your child but with the lives you help doing what you do…. I’m a special needs Mama too… My son has Autism, Speech Apraxia and Severe Cognitive Delays.
I love your perspective and ways of going about this!
I think after we have kids we all become an advocate of sorts. We see things in a different light when we are the responsible ones. I think that its great that you are speaking up for your child but its even better that you are helping others! Great job momma and keep up the great work.
You are such an inspiration! I love hearing this story and will be passing on your information to parents I know looking for this kind of support! Thank you!
What an amazing mom you are! I have learned to fight for my child when she was being denied the education she deserved and it is so hard to see your child be put on the back burner with the school. Your story is so inspirational
I bet that book has helped so many. My sister and brother and law are both special needs and it takes a toll on the parents and family as a whole. Mental health of the caretaker is often overlooked and it’s great to hear that someone has addressed it candidly.