Baby on Board: Parenting a Child with Special Needs

April 12, 2012

By Holly Menino

EUGENE, Ore. — Being a parent is tough enough, but there are even more obstacles to overcome when you have a child with special needs.
One mother faced that challenge head on and turned it into an opportunity.

Sydney Schook calls herself a “Mama Warrior”. Her son Aidan was born with Down syndrome. Aidan is also autistic.

“The autism piece was a lot harder on me because I didn’t fit into just the Down syndrome community or the autism community. I felt like we were kind of out on our own,” Schook said.

Sydney and her family found themselves battling two different worlds and trying to figure out where they fit in.

“I just didn’t know what to do next,” Schook said.

Sydney was struggling and so was Aidan.

“He was struggling himself. One of the hardest things with kids who have low communication skills is that they really act out or have behavior issues just because they can’t get the words out the way we typically would expect it,” Schook said.

During this time in their life, the Arc Lane County started up a program to help families like the Schooks. Sydney signed herself up.

“It really showed me that I can be a good advocate, that I can be a positive person in Aidan’s life,” Schook said.

The more she attended, the more she learned.

“Trying to take the stressers out of my life so that I could understand him better, that’s a huge obstacle that I had to overcome,” Schook said.

And soon Sydney found herself wanting to help other families like hers. About a year ago the Arc Lane County hired Sydney as a program specialist. She along with others are about to launch a parent-to-parent mentoring program called Parent Navigator.

“We’re matching and pairing up parents so they have a mentor that’s gone through it. It’s not a professional or a doctor. It’s someone who’s lived the experience,” Schook said.

Sydney says through Aidan and the Arc she’s gained valuable “Mama Warrior” skills, the most important being an advocate for herself, her son and other families just like hers.

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