America's fathers and public policy report of a workshop by Nancy A. Crowell, Ethel M. Leeper

By Nancy A. Crowell, Ethel M. Leeper

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By Nancy A. Crowell, Ethel M. Leeper

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Most children with special needs have ten fingers and ten toes, too! Kind of tosses that perfect-newborn test right out of the incubator, doesn’t it? We are a nation obsessed with physical beauty and perfection. The idea that we could give birth to anything less than a perfect child is too frightening to even consider, so we don’t prepare families for the possibility. No wonder when it happens so many parents feel overwhelmed and cheated, as if they have somehow failed at the perfect-baby game.

Forging new parenting dreams and becoming a confident parent of a child with special needs take time, tears, teamwork, a deep commitment to your child, and an abundance of unconditional love and patience. You are in this for the long haul. The parenting rewards you desire come in stages and may not be fully realized until your child is older, especially if your child is facing a particularly challenging diagnosis. No one can predict with certainty what your child’s future outcome will be, not even professionals with the most impressive credentials.

This single, important act helps validate your child’s value from birth, while granting others permission to offer congratulations as they would for any other family. Have a photograph taken of your newborn in the hospital, or take it yourself. If your child should die, you will be eternally grateful to have this sacred reminder. Such photos also help you look back to see just how far your child has come developmentally. • Encourage visits from supportive family and friends. The support of those you most trust can prove comforting as you work toward accepting your new parenting role.

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