Friday, October 23, 2009

Warrior parents; blazing the advocacy trail

Parenting a child with special needs is a challenge, a promise, a gift, a heartache. It can be life transformative and may just be the hardest thing a person takes on in their life. At time, it can be a heavy load to bear and can be terribly stressing on marriages.

But the human spirit can be dazzling in its creative drive while searching for hope and purpose. We see this in special needs parents every day. Learning to cope is a difficult process and different for each of us but the passion and focus that comes out of the journey can literally change lives near and far.

The term warrior mother is almost getting familiar with its connotation of a controversial vaccine crusader. But there are “warrior parents” out there around every corner blazing trails, improving lives, making a difference. These parents are hidden in plain site pushing strollers, wheelchairs, playing with their kid in the park, trying to find the right school placement, sitting at IEP meetings, driving to specialist appointments. These parents, simply by the fact of working to better the life options for their own child, are advocating inclusion for all kids with special needs. These parents and the caring specialists that they gather around them create something bigger than the sum of its parts. A family, in a sense, that shares common purpose, knowing that there is a place in this world for all of us.

Introducing some of these "warrior parents" and connecting them with other parents of kids with special needs is a focus of an upcoming series. I encourage anyone to contact me with suggestions of "warrior parents" you would like to see profiled. But, this time allow me to introduce:

Kelly’s Kidz – Kelly and David Hermann wanted to do something to honor their daughter Maggie who has Cerebral Palsy. They got the idea of starting a non-profit that would help provide financial assistance and resources to physically-impaired children with special needs and to create an opportunity for them to lead the best life they can possibly live.

From the Kelly’s Kids website, the Hermann's frankly share their story and say, “Because we have been so fortunate, we wanted to create opportunities for other families like ours to be able to provide their special needs son or daughter with everything they need. Not everything is covered by insurance and not everyone can afford all of the special needs equipment that they would like for their child. So we started Kelly’s Kidz. Our goal is to be able to use our resources to help provide for others – regardless of income level – what they cannot obtain on their own. Additionally, we’d like to create awareness. So many people are seemingly ignorant to the ways of the disabled. They feel that they should either stare or just look away in pity. If you have a special needs child you know that both of these actions result in anger and disappointment. If the public were just a little bit more accepting and courteous to the disabled, it would make our jobs as parents easier.”

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