A Parent's Perspective — Multiple Children, Multiple Challenges
The following is a transcription of the podcast, “A Parent's Perspective — Multiple Children, Multiple Challenges (Audio).”
In this podcast, Candace Cortiella talks with Julie Buick and Andy Kavulich, two members of the National Center for Learning Disabilities’ Parent Leader Team. Each of them is raising multiple children with disabilities as well as typical children. Andy is the father of four children, and Julie is the mother of three. We asked them to talk about the challenges presented by this parenting situation.
Candace Cortiella: Let’s start off with this question: How do you juggle the demands of parenting children with special needs and their siblings [without special needs]?
Julie Buick: Raising children with multiple disabilities as well as typical kids can raise many challenges. When you have a very dynamic and diverse family, I think it’s important to celebrate everybody’s unique needs, strengths, and abilities. It’s also really important to make sure that you’re meeting the needs all of the children in the family.
[In our family] we celebrate everybody for their uniqueness, for what they have to offer and what they contribute to our family. I think that’s been a key to keeping things even and making sure that all the needs are met. We look at every child for what he or she needs as an individual instead of lumping them all together. We really try to meet them where they are.
Andy Kavulich: I think we were blessed because Grace, our oldest child, had learning needs that were very apparent at an early age. So my wife and I learned a great deal from her and were able to bring ourselves up to speed in understanding her learning disabilities and needs and tried to put her in the best situations so she could succeed
Also, during the course of [developing] that awareness, we really focused on her strengths. We’re not perfect but we always played to her strengths and tried to [help her] overcome the weaknesses she has with her learning issues.
Every family is different. With Grace being the oldest, we were able to learn from her and then once we saw that two of her three younger siblings were very similar in their profiles, characteristics, and development, it was very easy. It is a challenge though at times to celebrate the one sibling who doesn’t have the same sort of learning issues and characteristics. The earlier that you understand what your kid’s strengths are, the earlier you can really start helping them.
Candace Cortiella: Knowing that children with disabilities can require more [of your] time and energy, how do you make sure you don’t overlook the typical child in your family?
Julie Buick: Well, my family has a respite provider come in to take care of the boys, which allows my husband or me to go out with our typical daughter and give her the time that she needs. We’re giving our daughter that special “Mom and Dad” time. We look at what she wants to do and what her interests in the community are, and then we try to make that happen for her. The daily in and outs in our home make it very challenging for us to meet everybody’s needs. Sometimes my husband stays home so I can take my daughter and out and do something special with her.
We’ve learned over the years that [it helps] to have a Plan A and a Plan B. So often, as we go out as a family unit, some [situations] are not a good fit [for my sons] and may cause them to get over-stimulated if we don’t prepare them or set up the environment to support them. We’ve learned to bring two cars on occasion so that my husband or I can leave with the boys and still be able to give Kathleen that quality time and let her enjoy the activity.