1. Focus on your child as a person—not on the disability. Appreciate your child’s many characteristics. The disability is only one. Don’t let the disability define the child.
  2. Don’t believe everything the experts tell you. Balance professionals’ expectations with your own knowledge about your child.
  3. Seek emotional support ASAP. Support can come from many sources: family, friends, other parents who have children with special needs, local advocacy groups, and support groups. Another parent who knows what you are experiencing can provide emotional strength, as well as suggestions that may benefit your child. Attend to your marriage and other supporting relationships. Make time to take care of yourself. If you are nurtured, it will be easier for you to nurture others.
  4. Learn about the disability and help your child from a proactive stance. Read anything you can about your child’s disability. Seek out local, state, and national organizations that have information on developmental disabilities.
  5. Learn about your child’s and your legal rights as stated in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and other civil rights legislation. Use your knowledge to ensure that your child receives what the laws promise.
  6. Provide your child with opportunities to mix with people who have and do not have disabilities. Practice is key to sociability.
  7. Expose your child to as many experiences and environments as possible. Learning how to handle varied situations builds confidence.
  8. Model how you want other people to treat your child. If you regard the child with love and respect, others will follow suit.
  9. Show your child how you want him or her to treat others. Children watch you and are wonderful imitators. Refrain from criticizing a teacher or other service provider in front of the child.
  10. Train your child to be a self-advocate. Teach your child how to stand up for him/herself. Self-advocacy training both protects and empowers the child.
  11. Trust in your ability to be a good parent and remember that you are your child’s most important advocate.

 **These tips were gleaned from articles published in Exceptional Parent Magazine and The Pacesetter, the newsletter of the PACER Center in Minneapolis, an information and training  center for parents and their sons and daughters with disabilities.