Vantika Singh shares her experiences of “fitting in” as a parent of a special needs child. She highlights the importance of self-help.

As I began accepting my child’s diagnosis,(read: my journey so far here), I also realized that I was getting increasingly unsure of my social circle. Some of the people who I thought were ‘my friends’ became distant and self-serving.

It was hurtful. For instance, there was this one ‘friend’ – who is now more of an acquaintance – who would just blame the weather or just blatantly lie about not meeting for play-dates with my son; and then she would make plans on the same day with someone else whom she deemed fit for her child. Later, she went on to tell the other mother’s at a common meet-up how enjoyable the play-date was. When I asked about planning another one, she proposed to simply meet at a playground next to her house, instead. I found this humiliating and decided to limit my social interaction with this person. I decided to take a stand for myself and my child against being taken for granted. The most disheartening thing is that such people do not show any genuine empathy. Therefore, it is important to filter out such negative influence from your life.

I created five golden rules that have helped me face situations like these and avoid feeling like a social misfit. They are:

1. Acceptance: It is essential for the parents of a special needs child to realize the importance of accepting their child’s diagnosis, which paves the way for early intervention. If parents do not want to face reality, they choose to go into hibernation and form a protective cocoon for themselves and their child. Honestly, this is merely a denial mechanism.

2. Self-help: Find out more about what’s happening, what you can do to cope with the business of living life, move completely out of the denial phase. The biggest form of support that you can offer yourself and your family is by accepting and reaching out to support groups in your vicinity – and that can only happen when you make a start. In this age of social media, you can easily spot such groups. There are several non-profit organizations throughout Switzerland that offer their services. Some of them include:

  • ASK (All Special Kids) offers programs driven by the needs of the parents, their child and the professionals in this field. It provides support for learning differences and special educational needs faced by the child.
  • Geneva Centre for Autism helps in finding access to financial assistance to parents who choose to take up their range of services.

3. Identify with groups on social media. There are also many closed and open support groups on Facebook and other virtual forums formed by people who are facing similar issues.

It would be wise to use such platforms to discuss, seek guidance and gather information. They help you organize play dates with kids and offer some time for parents to de-stress, especially mothers who are desperately seeking mental and emotional support. These groups give a sense of community and belonging to people who feel isolated from the social setup.
OVA Suisse is an open group that can be reached easily.

4. Prioritize: Some people who you thought were your friends might find excuses to limit their social time with you and your child, but there will be some who will empathize. Prioritize your set of friends who are ready to ease things for your family.

5. Embrace: This new social scenario will not only enhance a healthy environment for your family at home and outside, but also discourage social alienation and negativity.

So, embrace the change and feel the power within you.

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