Today, I have the honour to introduce a new guest to my blog. Her name is Sarah Lee-Wong Mayfern, and she’s both a great educator and a wonderful fellow stay home mom. (Click here and here for previous guests’ posts on my blog)
Like me, Sarah is a stay home parent. She has three kids, including two boys with special needs. Her youngest, a lovely girl, is neuro-typical.
Sarah’s eldest son has Social Communication Disorder, Developmental Coordination Delay (Dyspraxia) and ADHD, while the other boy has Dyslexia. She previously homeschooled her eldest who joined mainstream school for the first time this year at the age of 14.
Together with two other friends (including an Educational Psychologist), Sarah runs a support group called DYStinctive, for parents and teachers of kids with Dyspraxia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia and Dyslexia.
After appearing together on an episode of a local parenting podcast (it went live two days ago), Sarah kindly accepted my invitation to share her parenting journey with us here.
This is the first part of her story. (Check back here for Part 2 next week)
“Hi I’m Sarah. I’m a stay home mom with special needs kids”
When Kelvin invited me to join him as guests on a recent episode about special needs caregivers on the Hey Mama! podcast, I thought it was a good opportunity to take a pause on my parenting journey and reflect on what my family and I have experienced these last 14 years.
To be honest, after receiving the list of possible interview questions for the podcast, it took me several days to mull over them!
I felt an overwhelming sense of joy and gratitude as I pondered over the questions. I was reminded how far my God has brought my children and my family. It has definitely been a roller-coaster ride through some dark valleys. The ride is far from over but I know much hope remains.
During the podcast, I was encouraged to hear Kelvin’s sharing as it reminded me I’m not alone in my journey as a parent to neuro-divergent kids.
Here are some reflections I did not manage to share on the podcast, and I hope it will encourage you.
In the beginning…
After almost a decade of home-schooling my firstborn, and 15 years as a homemaker, I look back at my motherhood journey and marvel how far our family has come by the grace of God.
You see, my eldest son (now 14 years old) has multiple conditions that impact not just his learning but also his thinking and behaviour in the way he processes sensory and social information. His conditions also affect how he relates to himself and others.
We had him professionally assessed rather late, after he turned eight. And we spent a year thereafter investigating possible issues; and it took us a while to really get a full picture of all his needs.
Even as a trained and experienced educator myself, who diligently researched all possible causes for his challenges and challenging behaviour, I still fell into the trap of listening to the advice of others as many struggling parents like me do.
Other well-meaning friends including fellow educators and parents gave advice on how to be stricter, set firmer boundaries and offered me a myriad of ways to “improve” my parenting.
For a good four years or more after he turned three, I was on a relentless quest to become a better parent. I figured if I could do things better, surely my child would behave better right?
When life throws out lemons…
But alas, life isn’t quite like that, is it?!
More often than not, a parent’s best parenting efforts do not automatically translate to improved or stellar behaviour from a child. More so for a stay home mom like me!
Also, this view led to unnecessary frustrations with the child as it erroneously assumed that the child’s undesirable behaviours were a direct challenge to my authority as a parent.
It also led to guilt as I believed these behaviours were a reflection of my poor parenting.
In fact, I was once riddled with more guilt for ‘ruining’ my own child. That happened when someone invited me to bring my child to an inner healing session for kids, suggesting my son had spiritual and emotional trauma.
Can you imagine how that made me feel?!
In addition, at no point in my journey had anyone, including fellow educators and home-schooling parents, suggested my child might be struggling with sensory or thinking and behavioural differences. Everything was lumped and labelled as ‘bad’ parenting.
The sense of rejection, isolation and loneliness slowly started to creep in. In fact I can still recall vividly how we were once not allowed to join a home-school community. All because another parent was uncomfortable with my child’s behaviours.
And then came the silver lining for this stay home mom
Thankfully in 2016, I met someone in my bible discussion group who was a psychologist, and who had an 11 year-old at home diagnosed with dyspraxia.
Her honest sharing gave this stay home mom the courage to go seek professional help.
Courage was needed, not because I feared something was wrong. It was needed because I finally had to listen to my own intuition; not the opinions and judgements from others.
Even then, the process of trying to seek an answer was not easy and smooth, starting with our very first intervention session with a professional educational psychologist.
To find out what happened at that session and more, do watch this space next week as Part 2 of Sarah’s journey continues!