Special Needs Support: A Lifelong Journey
Roughly 10% of the workforce currently supports a child with special needs. As part of Autism Awareness Month, we'll be featuring weekly stories throughout April about what this means for employees and how employers can help.
One word - it can change your life. One tiny word and everything changes in an instant.
That's how I felt when my son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). My happy, blue-eyed, endearing, smart, charming, wonderful boy... What did this mean?
From that moment, my entire world shifted. All I could think about were the questions: What was going to happen to him? What would happen to us and our other children? How would we cope? How would this impact my family, my work? And how could I help my son to be happy?
Special Needs Support: Navigating A Frighteningly Complex WorldI learned quickly that the area of special needs was a frighteningly complex world. I also learned that when you're trying to figure it out, it's hard to think about anything else.
I was fortunate to have a resource through the Bright Horizons Special Needs support program. The program outlined all the laws and regulations around special needs (and there are A LOT!); it provided step-by-step guides on writing letters and obtaining documentation; and it gave me a roadmap guiding what to send where...and when.
It's hard to know how overwhelming this can be until you're faced with it. Because left to manage on your own, it can affect every area of your life, including your job. This is what I share with employers when speaking about the Special Needs program: how valuable it is and what it can do for parents and caretakers who may be struggling to navigate this labyrinth.
Advocating for a Child with Special Needs: A Valuable BenefitObviously, this kind of special needs support has personal significance for me. But it carries national economic weight as well. The Institute of Education Science reported that about 13% of all public school children receive some sort of special education services, a statistic that certainly has ripple effects outside of school.
It's encouraging to see an increasing number of HR departments recognizing the importance of these types of services and offering them to employees. Clearly something about this particular area of well-being resonates with them and more and more are considering the Special Needs program an essential addition to their already robust dependent-care programs. And I can tell you personally - it's very much appreciated.
As my family continues on its (now) lifelong journey, I'm continually grateful for being part of a forward-thinking organization. I'm so glad I have help to learn what my rights are; guidance to help me advocate for my child and ensure he gets the services he needs; a roadmap to guide us through this complicated, emotional process.
It really empowers families - like mine.