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Positive Advice for Parents of a Special Needs Child

You just had a baby and he or she was born with a disability. How can you cope with that information and what can you do to not fall into the trap of despair or denial? I’ve been there and our beautiful daughter Candace is thriving as an adult. Your child can thrive and lead an amazing life just the way they are no matter the different-ability.

My wife and I were 24 years old when our daughter Candace was born in 1985. She was our first child. We had no idea while we were pregnant that our baby would have a little something extra, Down syndrome. Even after she was born there was some doubt to her diagnosis. She had some of the characteristics of a child with Down syndrome but not all. We went back and forth with doctors and after three weeks the diagnosis was confirmed. Even if we would have known prior to her birth, we still would have accepted our little girl.

We all have goals for our children before they’re even born. It was no different for us. As we learned of her “different-ability,” we needed to make adjustments in what we thought was going to be our future. The goals for our daughter would have to be modified. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy were going to play a role for us. What we didn’t expect was pity from our friends or comments like, “they’re such happy children.” We didn’t plan for a nurse to come into the hospital room while my wife was recovering and ask her if we would like to give our baby up for adoption. You never think about those things as being part of becoming a parent. We refused to listen to those who said she would never be able to do this or that. Never is not in our vocabulary.

As Candace grew we continued to hear the things she wouldn’t be able to do. Candace was born in Salt Lake City, Utah. As a part of her therapy, we needed to pay a portion of our salary (based on our tax returns) to have therapies prior to kindergarten. We decided to move to Maryland for the schools system there and she received great therapy and education there. Learning is not a finite process. We choose to look at learning as a “not yet” as opposed to never. Candace has shown that she is still learning and growing as all of us do. She has a high school diploma, started her own public speaking business (Candace Whiting Unlimited), and now is rebranding her business as Great Life Unlimited. The business allows her to coach other people with disabilities to live a great life as well as still giving speeches in a variety of settings.

She has a label but she chooses to have an amazing life. Your child can lead their best life no matter the diagnosis or label.

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