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19445BFo Florida Edition — Volume XI, Issue I 11 Why take on this kind of battle? Because as our children age, we all are faced with this issue. Group home? Independent living? With me for the rest of his/her life? Can they work? Where will they work? I lose a lot of sleep over this. I have always been one to tackle big things head-on. I think about the ramifications later. Did I get a solution that night? No. However, some candidates were aware of different opportunities and programs in our area for individuals with special needs. Some really want to make a difference and learn more and some were just plain clueless. Someone actually thought that having our special needs community clean up our parks was a great idea. It took all I had to not take my shoe off at the table and use it to knock some sense into them. This is the kind of attitude that we have to fight against daily. I am my child’s advocate. You are your child’s advocate. I will not accept being told there is something some teacher, specialist or even a family member thinks my child is not capable of doing. He might have to do it differently, but he is capable of doing anything he sets his mind to. This is where you come in. You have to figure out what your special needs child likes. What interests them and how do you foster that interest into a career? It took me many years to figure this out. But if you get involved in your child’s life full-time, you can figure it out. You have to help your child. Because if you wait for Voc Rehab or Big Brother, you will wait forever. Go out and talk to businesses in your community. Ask your elected representatives their views on the special needs community and creating job opportunities. If they are on board, great. If not, then you know how to vote in your next election. Unfortunately, the candidates who I felt would help me did not get elected. The ones that I felt would do the least to help our special needs community did. My job as a special needs mom and advocate just got harder. Does that mean I stop trying? No, I just try harder. Because our children deserve every opportunity, even if we have to create that opportunity for them. Never give up. Never accept what someone tells you about your child. If I did, I would believe that my son was not capable of doing anything. He is capable of doing anything he sets his mind to, with a lot of support from his mom and anyone else I can enlist. When you are a special needs parent, it does take a village. Find your tribe. Diana Anderson is the mother of three children. Her youngest has autism spectrum disorder and learning disabilities. She works to make a difference in her community by bringing special needs awareness to every person she meets and bring acceptance of all with disabilities. For more information about her support group search on Facebook: Special Needs Parent Support Group of Seminole County. UNITY f Bell f d Members of the Special Needs Support Group attending the Special Needs Summer Camp Fair

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