Teamwork Makes the Dream Work: Support for Parents with Young Children with Special Needs


By Elyssa Yeh, MA, R-DMT

Last week, while volunteering at an inclusive preschool for young children who are both neuro-typical development and have been diagnosed on the autism spectrum, I had an enlightening and inspiring conversation with one of the teachers.

First, to provide a little context…

As many of you have likely already encountered, this past week was a doozy! Returning from the high stress schedules of the holiday season and winter breaks had veered many of us—children and grownups alike—off our typical, steady, and familiar track. So, of course, trying to redirect ourselves to get back on track, let alone several youngsters, was a bit trying.

When I entered my room of children last week, I could see, hear, and feel this struggle to muster up energy or just something from whatever fumes of fuel everyone had left. I recall looking around and seeing and hearing little ones crying, kiddos acting out, teachers with low energy, and almost everywhere you looked someone was yawning and looking a little zombie-eyed. I really just felt for everyone.

The class that I was assisting with had gone outside to play (I live in San Diego, so we are so blessed to be able to play outside year-round!) I was helping to prepare lunches, and one of the teachers stayed in to tidy up the classroom.

We got to talking about how clear it was that we were in the midst of the transition between winter break and the holidays and getting back into the groove of things.

We took this opportunity to chat and support each other…to affirm and validate each other, to empathize and be compassionate towards each other and to ourselves. Essentially, we were helping each other to regulate before the next wave of the day came roaring back into the classroom.

And then, the teacher and I both had an “Aha!” moment, a realization that as grown ups dedicated to teaching and providing for these kiddos, we are trying to balance regulating ourselves while regulating kiddos while teaching and encouraging them to learn, sometimes, while running on low. Nevertheless, we must keep going.

As grown ups who are working and supporting young children, one of our many goals is to teach these youngsters to self-regulate by modeling and practicing self-regulation with them, often for them, when things get out of control. Plus, if the child or children that you are supporting have any social-emotional special needs, then as a grown up you may need to muster up a little extra oomph.

As this teacher and I continued to chat, we both took a moment to express our appreciation for one another. For supporting each other and keeping each other in check when things feel like they are getting out of hand.

We were full of gratitude for each other because of the connection and relationship we relied upon.

Whether we are kiddos or grown ups, it is so important that we have our tribe, our team, our people that we can go to for support and assistance.

My tribe is made up of friends, family, and loved ones. It includes the people who share my passion and dedication to working with all children and adolescents to become their best selves. There are people in my tribe that I have never met physically, thanks to the profound power of the internet and social networking, like Facebook and Instagram.

I rely on my people for hope, for understanding, and for learning. They remind me that I’m not an island, and I’m not riding this rollercoaster of life alone. My peeps lift me up, affirm me, and validate me.

So, with all of that being said, thank you for being part of my tribe, I appreciate you and all that you do. And know that you are doing an incredible job, in whatever way you support, work with, and provide for kiddos with all needs.

For the parents to unique and special little ones who require more of you, I witness the challenges in snapshots and snippets and I am amazed by your grit, your strength, your resilience, and your ability to find the will to keep on going. No one said it would be easy, but it sure is worth it!

Today, I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on your support system. It takes a village to do what you do, how does your tribe help and support you? Who are your people? I’d love to hear how teamwork makes your dream work in your family by sharing with us in the comments below or on Instagram @_thegroove_

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