Reasons why having a child with special needs makes parents great candidates in the job market

Goodness me, it’s been a long time since I managed to sit down and catch up with writing this blog. A few ideas have circled in my head, never materialising to more than a few paragraphs on paper. And it’s been summer holidays – that time of the year that pace of everything slows down. We have had carers coming in a couple days a week, but even with the help I have succumbed to deliciousness of doing fairly little and achieving even less. 

What I have been doing is thinking about the future. Freya has started school (I know! How crazy!) and has entered a new stage in her life – it seems only logical that I also should.

What crazy four years it has been! The initial shock, being pushed so far out of my comfort zone, the slow crawl back to establishing our new life, our “new normal“ and the continuous battle trying to come to terms with it, to make friends with it. And here I am, realising that it is time to move the goalposts once more and start thinking about what is in store next for me?

Realistically it’s time to start thinking about getting back to work. I’ve been working part-time for a year now and with Freya full time in school it only makes sense for me to start thinking about bringing home a bit more bacon.

The prospect of getting back into work has excited and scared me in equal measures, We all know that combining career with family can be challenging, but when you add a disabled child into the equation things can get even more complex and not always for fair – or even realistic – reasons. And that’s why I wanted to write this blog – there really are a bunch of reasons why having a child with special needs makes parents great candidates in the job market.

For example, employers like employees who function well under pressure and can take the ups and downs of work and life in their stride. I cannot think better training for this than the rollercoaster of a life with a child with special needs!

Want to experience a high pressure environment? Try looking after a snotty tracheostomy baby who needs suctioning 150 times a day to breath whilst doing all the other normal human functions like eating, showering and paying the bills. Then add on a crazy amount of medical professionals, appointments and continuous fighting for equipment, care hours and money. Sprinkle with a generous amount of medical emergencies and care staff cancelling last minute their night shifts. All whilst trying to get into terms with the emotional turmoil that hits you when you first realise your child is ill and is likely to remain so for maybe even indefinitely.

They say resilience is a characteristic that can be enhanced by practice. Parents with disabled kids have been hitting the resilience gym for years by learning co-exist with the scariest limitations our kids’ conditions. Do we stumble and fall down? Yes, but more importantly we get up and go on.

But do parents of disabled kids have the skills that modern employers need? I strongly believe that we develop a variety of transferable skills as parent carers.  How about: 

  • Experience in researching complex areas of science and law and explain these in everyday language? Or ability of remembering complex information in a consistent and chronological order? We read and educate themselves in relation to our kid’s conditions, treatments, operations constantly. We read complex medical articles, googling every unfamiliar term. We know our kid’s medical history like the back of our hand – dates, operations, professionals, hospitalisations, medications… The list goes on.
  • Effectively communicating with people from various backgrounds both verbally and in writing? Welcome to my life! Six specialities, three hospitals, educational department, social services, school, two children’s hospices and a care agency – and that is just for Freya. And some of the need…ahem… extra communication to be reminded of what needs to be done. 
  • Working together as a team to come up with costs and time effective solutions? It’s a job in itself to get the different medical teams to work in unison (my personal best is getting Maxfax, Cleft, Dental and ENT all to see Freya in one surgery. Yep, still proud of that one!) 
  • Problem solving time sensitive issues effectively with a combination of communication, research and lateral thinking? Shout out to those sorting out medical equipment problems and shortages – with extra points for out of hours emergencies, “computer says no” attitudes, midnight dashes to homes of other medically complex families and sweet-talking nurses to give you extra supplies whilst at hospital. 

And the list goes on. So next time you come across a CV where a parent has taken a career break because of their child’s medical needs call them in for the interview. If they have successfully survived the experience I reckon they are the kind of badass that any employer should be lucky to have. 

P.s. This picture is of Freya on her first day of school – such an exciting day for all of us (and one we feared we’d never see).

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