Parenting

How does coaching help parents of children with special needs

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EMOTIONS OF PARENTING CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS

The journey of parenting is a tough one regardless of what sort of child you parent. There are all sorts of emotions to handle, guilt, worry, anxiety, competitiveness, feelings of fear, frustration or even resentment. Of course, there are the positive emotions too but we tend not to focus on those when life gets challenging. It’s the ‘hard’ stuff that we put under the magnifying glass and can often lead us to a place of overwhelm. Balancing money worries, work commitments our own health, friendships, sleep and wellness.

Now, magnify all of that bigger, and bigger and bigger and bigger. Then you can start to imagine what life as a parent raising a child who has ‘special needs’ might involve. Special needs could mean the child is on the autistic spectrum or have physical, emotional, social, developmental or behavioural challenges. It means that what you might ‘usually’ expect from your child – what you had planned for – is unlikely to be happening. It also means that it is most likely that alongside one challenge or disability or delay there are any number of other challenging factors as a result.

As anyone knows, parenting was never meant to be an easy journey but when the usual mile stones are not met and words like developmental delay are voiced it brings with it a vast array of complex feelings and emotions for the parent of a child with special needs.  Fears, exhaustion, helplessness and loneliness to name a few. Quite often the system and society we live in contributes to this further - leading to more anxiety, stress and worry. A lack of compassion or understanding from your partner, family or school. Or balancing the needs of a special needs child and their sibling. Quite often this is all impacted further due to having to pursue different types of support - from social services, the national healthcare system or the educational system. 

COACHING FOR PARENTS OF CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS

Some of the issues that you may be challenged by as a parent of a child with special needs include: 

  • Fully accepting their needs

  • Becoming your child’s campaigner and advocate

  • Handling the education system or healthcare system

  • Establishing a routine or lifestyle that best supports you and your child 

  • Connecting to yourself and fully understanding your fears

  • Creating awareness in your child’s school, peer group or your own peer group or family

Coaching can be used as a space from which a clear sense of direction can be identified. A place where you ask ‘what now’ and ‘how’ and look at your options in a supportive partnership which will assist you in identifying the hurdles and emotional pitfalls and lead you to discover more empowering ways to live your life. 

HOW COACHING HELPS PARENTS

Coaching can help you to become more self-aware and enable you to identify thoughts, patterns and beliefs that are not serving you as a parent. Coaching can help you to find the areas of your life that are impacting your relationship with your child and support you to connect with them more fully by first connecting with yourself. 

It is my passion and mission to support as many parents as possible through Raising Spirit. 

I believe that as I have first-hand experience of what life is like to parent a child with complex barriers to learning and a host of physical and social challenges, I am able to share some of that vulnerability – having lived through it.  I intend for my experience, compassion and empathy to support other parents of children with special needs and to make a long-lasting impact to your life. 

My personal experience and understanding of what it is like to parent a child with special needs allows me to hold a unique position as a coach and complementary healthcare practitioner. My ambition is always to help you ensure your personal journey raising a child with special educational needs is met with compassion for your child but also and most importantly for you as a parent.

 

“Start by doing what’s necessary then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” Francis of Assisi  

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The power of reflexology for SEND children

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How symptoms associated with non-neuro typical children, autistic spectrum disorders or those diagnosed with developmental delay or learning deficits can benefit from regular reflexology

Global delay & learning deficits

My son, was diagnosed with a ‘global delay’ early on due to having hypermobile joints and low muscle tone. He didn’t walk until he was almost three and all developmental progress was slow. His first tooth finally appeared at 14 months and the entire process was agonising for everyone. 

‘Global delay’ is the term used when a child isn’t hitting developmental milestones in one or more areas.  With my son it included gross motor (due to low muscle tone), which led to fine motor challenges (creating issues with self-care and eating). As well as speech & language delays. It seemed across the board he wasn’t quite where he needed to be. 

Toilet training struggles

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At the age of almost five, it became apparent he had digestive transit issues as well. He had always presented with a slightly distended tummy but he was having regular bowl movements and no one had voiced any concerns. However, despite successful toilet training with No’ 1,sorting No’2 was proving to be a considerable challenge. It was after months of getting nowhere, I managed a referral to his consultant at the hospital who upon extensive examination and a number of X-Rays diagnosed ‘severe faecal impaction’. Despite regular movements, what we had seen was an overflow scenario and he was literally ‘full of it’ from top to bottom.

The PACE clinic at our local hospital had over 250 kids on the books at that time, in our area alone, with parents suffering the same situation. Ours was a particularly severe case and it would take over a year to sort – possibly a lot longer and there were no guarantees! 

Faecal Impaction

We set about a programme of careful nutrition, a gluten free diet, pints of a drug called Movicol (to loosen the stools) and daily reflexology. Having trained with the Bayly School of Reflexology back in 2004, I had long used my knowledge to help with his various childhood symptoms, but my experience really came into its own with this situation. 

I would stimulate the colon, lymph system and intestine reflexes on a daily basis (sometimes twice daily) and to the astonishment of the consultants, Santi was clear and toilet trained in under a year. It took significant effort with added extras such as juicing raw beetroots before school (to aid digestion). He had many days out of school and on the days he did go, he took up to seven changes of trousers and pants with him for his Teaching Assistants to deal with the inevitable. At times of major ‘clear out’ he was kept out of school, it took three stints of up to 8 pints of Movicol Paediatric a day to fully break and evacuate it all.  I did not use nappies – as in the long term it would set us back with toilet training. It was SO tough, looking back I don’t know how we got through but the pain was worthwhile. The regime worked. 

Had it not been for my knowledge of anatomy and very careful management of his diet and fluid intake as well as reflexology he would no doubt still have issues. We met many children with parents along the way, I always tried to offer as much guidance as I could and encourage them to carefully manage nutrition. My results came from my full commitment to the regime. It is my belief, that had I not been able to complement the medical treatment with Reflexology and stimulating the bowel, we would not have arrived to the healthy boy I have today. 

Digestive transit issues associated with special needs kids

My son is not diagnosed with autism or any other ‘syndrome’ but he does attend a special school to help compensate with his learning difficulties.  The challenges we face on a day-to-day basis are similar to children on the spectrum. He has sensory processing challenges and various other developmental and neurological difficulties. Throughout our journey, I have gained an incredible amount of insight, knowledge and experience of the world of SEN (special educational needs), and the struggle that many of the kids and parents face both emotionally and medically. 

For my son, the doctors did not give any concrete explanation of how or why it happened. In my view it is threefold: 1) a slower peristalsis and digestive transit due to muscle tone, 2) less activity in his early years than an average toddler due to hypermobile joints and difficulty moving around, 3) IBS related symptoms due to his various challenges / anxiety playing a factor. 

The picture is similar with many of the other children I have met. It is very common for children diagnosed with Down’s syndrome to suffer from low muscle tone and faecal impaction. It is also very common for children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism (ASD), Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) to suffer from anxiety related gut / brain issues which create IBS type symptoms. 

Reflexology – a little goes a long way

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Relaxation, as all of us know, is such a crucial aspect to reducing stress and anxiety related issues. In my experience with non-neuro typical children there are complex issues that result in a host of digestive transit challenges. The brain gut connection is so fundamental. If you consider that people with anxiety related issues suffer from IBS and related problems, then it is logical that children who are stressed - due to sensory challenges - are likely to have similar problems with their gut. Many have very sensitive systems and need a very ‘clean’ diet. It is important that parents are empowered with techniques to combat these situations. By looking at diet and learning some simple reflexology techniques parents can really start to support their child’s digestive transit as well as create a state of calm – which is going to be hugely beneficial. 

Quite often it is impractical to offer a ‘full Reflexology treatment’ to children – especially those with hyperactivity or other challenges. In my experience a small amount of reflexology, on a regular basis can assist in a number of ways. Firstly, the relaxation benefits of treatment as it is incredibly calming, and this is invaluable. Stimulating the solar plexus point provides relaxation, the spine works on the neural pathways, the digestive tract tackles anxiety related IBS symptoms and the lymphatics system increases elimination. This all goes a long way to good health and on small feet can be treated within 10 minutes. 

Every little helps with a child with learning difficulties, developmental delays, special needs or any of the many syndromes and other diagnosis that are appearing. 

Helping parents

Parents of SEND children have to be incredibly resilient.  I think we would all agree that creating a space of calm would be top of our list.  Whilst a full reflexology treatment on us (as parents) would also be wonderful, equipping ourselves with as much knowledge as possible to support our children is often our priority. All we want to do is the best we can for our kids. Reflexology is non-invasive and hugely empowering for SEND parents. Encouraging knowledge share of how Reflexology can help support SEND families is one of the pillar stones behind Raising Spirit. 

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On a SEN Mission: Striving for a better future for parents of non-neuro typical children

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This is my first blog to welcome you to Raising Spirit. 

It took adrenal burnout, a near breakdown and the loss of my major work contract to tip me over the point of no return and to seriously re-evaluate my life and what was going on for me. An unfulfilling career had been an ongoing factor for years, but as a single mum with a child on the disability register – the contract was a 'god send’ ! It enabled me to work from home, exhausted but not be seen, cry and have no one be any wiser. At least I was being paid well and could wash the shitty pants and scrub the toilet when required in my lunch break!

Life was good!!

Well, I survived but the fatigue started to take its toll after I eventually got my son into the right school. It had followed years of battle with the local education authority and ridiculous amounts of private therapy assessments, endless sleepless nights for one reason or another and having to move homes five times, that’s an average of every other year with a child with sensory issues – you get the picture!

So, Raising Spirit evolved from the fatigue and the need to get it all out, a cathartic process that before I knew it was 70,000 words long with one clear focus. Help others to get through their journeys and not end up in the same state as me. Turn everything i'd learnt into a positive attribute, all the hard times, all the pain - be a positive contribution.

Helping parents of non-nuero typical children find their way through the dark times and into the light has become my mission. The statistics speak for themselves, marital breakdowns, loss of careers, depression, anxiety, stress: These parents have the hardest job in the world and it is made harder by the systems, society and the fact it is just torturous loving our little spirits with all our might and wondering how on earth they will ever find their way.

It is utterly exhausting: finding the therapy, doing the therapy, getting the diagnosis, sticking to the job, the family. The demands are high and so are the stakes.

Raising Spirit, aims to reach these parents and help. Coaching, workshops, advice, alternative therapy guidance and resources. I hope your journey with Raising Spirit truly supports you on your path to a sense of freedom and peace of mind with your children.

A favourite quote:

When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening. That’s where your power is!
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Clare x