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Don’t start school year negatively

September 1, 2016
Maria Smaldo Spencer , MOV Parent

Many parents are excited when school begins again-they are happy their family's schedule has started, and they can settle back into a routine. For most parents, the biggest worry about this time of year may be wondering who their child's new teacher is, or making sure they are able to find all the items on their school supply list.

But if you are a parent of a child with different abilities, the beginning of the school year-and school in general-brings up many emotions. After a nice break from homework, projects and tests, many special parents hate to see the summer come to an end. They know now that their special parent role will now include live-in tutor. You see, if you have a child whose needs surface in the day to day of school, this time of year can be very stressful.

I recently had a familiar conversation with a special mom regarding the beginning of the school year. She shared how so many moms are excited to see school start, but for her, the beginning of the year brings fears and worries. She is in the early stages of this journey, and she hopes the decisions she has made for her little boy are what he is going to need to be successful. As we talked, I reassured her that she is not the only one that has ever felt this way and that she needs to trust herself and have faith. Just because the road ahead looks unfamiliar, I tried to impress upon her that at the end of the day, no one knows her son like she and her husband do. As we talked, the tears that were in her eyes at the beginning of the conversation faded because she realized that I have had the same feelings that she was experiencing, and she is not alone.

The fears and worries that often accompany us on this journey are much like most of our other fears and worriesthey all reside in the unknown, and in doubt. We doubt our decision making abilities and our skills as a parent. As special parents, we have more opportunities to fall into the trap of second guessing ourselves and drowning in our own thoughts.

My prayer this month is that even though school has begun, you will not fill your mind with fear and worry, but rather build a foundation of faith and hope for you and your child.

I've learned over the years that fear and worry drain our energy, and ultimately defeat our purpose. It is so easy to get caught in negative thinking patterns that quickly lead to destruction. I've trained myself to be consciously aware of my thoughts, and choose to have thoughts of hope for my daughter. Focusing on my faith allows me to have such thoughts. I firmly believe God chose us to be special parents, and He gives us strength to endure every road on our journey.

Since faith is the opposite of fear, it allows us to be able to face any circumstance with our child; whether it's starting school or trying a new therapywe're equipped to handle it all. Trust and believe that because you were chosen for this amazing task, you already have inside you what it takes to make every decision and face every challenge.

Don't allow your mind to stay in a negative, worry-filled mode. Start this school year by choosing faith instead of fear, and see what a difference it makes. You and your child are going to have a great year!

Maria Smaldino Spencer is a special mom, special needs consultant and a center supervisor administrator at CDI Head Start of Mahoning County in Youngstown. Contact her at



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