In this Vital Mercy series, Dr. Brenda Murphy shares letters to help calm the fears, answer the questions and steer parents on a path to successful teaching and learning with struggling learners at home.

I cried at the end of Facing the Giants. I’m not ashamed to confess it. Sappy films, books and TV shows that portray human struggle against insurmountable obstacles–personal fear, tragic circumstances, or even a more capable athletic opponent—always open an emotional floodgate. 

Those same tears come when I listen to parents who have faced, faced down, and beat the giants of learning disabilities, inappropriate behavior, and attention and memory problems. Etched in the fabric of their lives are the hard-fought, never-say-die daily battles with discouragement, disappointment, and delay. The details of their stories are different, but the BIG things, the giants, are the same:

*Panic “Oh, Lord, something’s really wrong with my child. I can’t handle it.”

*Fear “The thought that my child can’t read or act appropriately immobilizes me.”

*Guilt “I must have done something terribly wrong.”

*Confusion “There are so many voices. Which ones do I listen to?”

*Inadequacy “I struggled in school. How can I teach my child?”

How did others—how can you —take the BIG out of this unbelievably difficult situation, defeat the giants, and create miracles for these children? Here are five tried-and-true ways to shrink thee giants:

  1. Pray. Daily. Hourly. Every minute. Okay, I know that sounds self-evident but it’s your most powerful weapon.
  2. Determine your personal standard of success. Remember for special needs children, success is not always spelled “a-c-a-d-e-m-i-c.” Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Children really have more similarities than differences. So focus on your child’s strengths and the typical things they do.
  3. Start at the beginning with small reasonable goals. Limit yourself to 3-5 achievable ones, like creating a functional learning environment and starting and ending your day on time.
  4. Develop a list of things your child loves to do and make sure they’re always a part of his/her school day. You’ll find your child will be so much more cooperative.
  5. Schedule, schedule, schedule. Organize, organize, organize. Special needs children thrive with the predictable. Schedules and organization are the best friends of the special needs educator, whether in a classroom or at home. Many of us (including me) struggle with organization, but it’s a learned skill. In our next Cool Waters letter, “Schedules, Calendars, and Coffee! Oh, My!”, veteran special needs educator, Libby Moody, helps us learn the value of schedules and how to make them work for us.

Until then, let’s do this. Stand in front of a mirror, take a deep breath, let it out and say with me, “With God’s help, I can do this! I can do this! I CAN FACE GIANTS and win.” I know you can, and we’ll be here to help and courage you.

Until the next deep drink, 

Brenda Murphy

Read the next letter, Schedules, Calendars, and Coffee! Oh, My!