Dr. Emily's Story
I’m glad you’re here. I’ve spent over 15 years working with children with special needs and their families. I’ve worked in public schools, a university-based assessment clinic, and private practice. I’ve completed evaluations, delivered hard news to parents, attended hundreds of IEP meetings, and consulted with teachers, administrators, and school-district staff.
But my heart is in catching families after the diagnosis and getting started with the helping part. Over time, my psychology practice evolved into providing therapy to children and teens with diagnoses of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), ADHD, anxiety, depression, sensory processing difficulties, and learning disabilities, twice-exceptionality, or a combination of all of the above. They have taught me so much, and so have their parents.
But I have another teacher. My son was my greatest curve-ball in life and he is still teaching me everything I didn’t learn in graduate school. I’ve sat on both sides of the IEP table, I’ve been on both sides of the diagnostic feedback session, and I know the helpless feeling of being tired and thinking you are out of ideas. This feeling was the inspiration for beginning my blog, Parenting On Your Own Path, and expanding it to include products to reach families beyond my therapy practice.
We have to keep sharing our ideas. What works for one child may or may not work for another. Our kids are complex. Our families are complex. There is so much information out there, but we are ultimately the decision-makers of the next best step in our child’s journey. And, while that’s a lot of pressure, we can do this. We will sift through all of the recommendations in an effort to find the balance between pushing our child to learn new skills, which may cause fear and frustration, and creating the space that keeps them happy and calm.
The Hard Stuff and the Truth
So many parents have shared their struggles with me. Many have felt that pit in their stomach when they noticed something was different about their child’s development. Some have experienced denial as they tried to explain away a behavior, and many have felt frustrated and sad as they begin embracing their new parenting journey. Some feel inadequate and question every decision they have ever made as a parent. The truth here, though, is that every parent has felt this sense of “not enough.” It’s that moment as a mom when you look up and it seems like that other mother is doing it “better,” with more ease. That’s all in our heads though. The truth is that we are all on our own path, with our own stories, and our own challenges. But there is nothing else like the experience of having a child with special needs that makes you realize, “Whatever you knew before, does not help you here." Some of you are just starting this journey and some are well on your way down the path.
I have been a witness to so much progress over the years, both for children and for their parents. Many parents notice that the denial happened because they were scared to let go of the picture they had created in their head about this parenting journey. The grief happened because it’s hard to accept that this parenting journey truly can be harder than others.
The Irony of the Path
While you are on your own path, the irony is that it’s actually not your path at all. It’s your child’s path. We’re just following behind, jumping ahead at times to whack bushes out of the way, and figuring out what our child’s strengths are to help them forge their own path one day. The story will be their story to tell.
There is so much hope for our children's progress and our children's future. I hope that my work here helps parents, teachers, caregivers, and other clinicians in understanding the perspectives of families raising neurodiverse children in the 21st century. I’m hoping this work reaches families outside of metropolitan areas who do not have access to the most up-to-date ideas in parenting children with certain developmental needs.
The upcoming online course "Parenting On Your Own Path [The Roadmap]" is designed as a self-study course for parents transitioning into this unexpected parenting journey. My hope is that it helps you shift your mindset and understand your child in ways you never imagined. The social stories I write are for parents, teachers, and children who may need to make sense of the world in more literal ways, especially when big feelings are involved. And, the blog will continue to include all kinds of topics including how to support anxiety and emotional regulation, how to structure routines at home for children with rigid thinking and/or executive functioning weaknesses, building support with your child’s school and teachers, how to support your child’s siblings, and how to take care of yourself.