Being the parent of a child with special learning and physical needs can be quite challenging on many fronts. One thing that can be particularly frustrating to parents seeking assistance for their child, is finding professionals that can truly empathize with their situation on a personal level.
This week's interview is with a woman who not only works with parents of children with special needs and challenges-- she has first hand experience as the parent of a child with learning and physical challenges. Meet Laura Parker - Founder and Director of Hands on Learning Solutions.
Joan:Laura, tell us a little about what you do.
Laura:I work with children with special needs and learning challenges,including learning disabilities. I use a wide variety of neuro-developmental therapies to bring about improvements in symptoms and challenges. I also do testing and screening for reading, writing, dyslexia, auditory processing, visual processing, memory, neuro-reflexes, logic & reasoning.
J oan:Wow, sounds like you are a wealth of resources for parents of children with learning challenges. And--you have a couple of things that set you apart from most other therapists/teachers.
Laura: Yes. The first thing is that I have personally experienced what it is like to have a child with disabilities, and I can relate to the parents. No amount of education can teach you what it's like to have the disability, or to parent a child with a disability. So many of the families I meet feel a connection and know that I know what it's like on a day to day basis to live with the challenge. The second thing I've discovered in working with my own child is that when interventions are integrated, done at the same time in the sequence of development, the gains are much larger and quicker. Most therapists specialize in one intervention, but I have training in multiple areas.
Joan: What is your background in this field?
Laura:My back ground is in psychology-child developm ent and education. I have
a degree in psychology and a teaching credential. I've worked with
both special and regular education. I've also taught in both public and
private schools and was director of a private school.
Joan: Tell us about this journey with your son
Laura: When my son was about 20 months old I realized his language was
not developing correctly. The pediatrician, audiologist, speech teacher
and others all told me there was nothing wrong and that he'd grow out
of it. He didn't. He ended up having severe speech and language
disorders which still impact him today. Along the way he also developed
other symptoms most of which were ignored or down played by other
professionals, only to discover a year or two later that they were
negatively affecting his ability to communicate, learn and live.
Fifteen years later I've worked with, provided therapy for, and guided
my son who has several learning disabilities as well as some medical
issues. Because of my son I researched and obtained training in many
areas of learning disability interventions not available through
mainstream avenues to help my son improve and recover. I've also
learned a lot and made many, many connection with professionals around
the country in regards to autism and other medical conditions.
My son was diagnosed as autistic and after all the interventions over several years,
others can no longer tell he has challenges, and definitely cannot tell
he is autistic. I say that because we believe from all the medical
tests and education we've had on the subject that he will always be
biologically autistic, but we have removed the stressors so the
behavior is no longer seen.
Joan: What a blessing that you've been able to not only find resources to help your son, but with your knowledge and expertise, have this extensive network to help other parents as well.
Laura: I believe the Lord knew by giving me the love of working with children
and learning about science I would be well suited for the child he gave
me. From there it provided me with the experience and education to go
out and start changing the lives of special needs children and their
families. I have no doubt this is exactly what the Lord wants me doing
and it's a very fulfilling ministry.
Joan: Is there any general advice you can give to parents with children of special needs? And what about parents who suspect their child may have a problem:
Laura:My favorite scripture is Psalm 71:!4 "I will always have hope!" My message to parents is there is hope! You cannot give up and you cannot allow others to tell you to give up. I know many, many parents who kept searching until they found someone who could help their child and many improved immensely. If a parent suspects something isn't right with their child, they need to listen to their gut. Listen to your intuition--well-informed parents are nearly always right about their own kid s.
Joan: Laura, do you have other children? Spouse?
Laura:I have a husband, Jeff, who is very supportive and who is also involved in our program, trainings, and parent education. I have only one son. I had always hoped for 6, but came to the realization it would not have been in my child's best interest when he was dealing with several challenges. I say he is all six kids in one. If I did have the 6 children, I would not have had the time to get the trainings and education to help my child and would not have the opportunity to serve others. So I am satisfied because I know the Lord has given me what I need.
Joan: As the parent of a special needs child, who is now an adult, I can certainly relate to all you've said. I just wish I knew someone like you as I was raising my daughter. What is your contact information?