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Double Duty

Monday, September 13, 2010
If you’re the parent of a special needs child, you’ve proven that you can handle a tough—and rewarding—job. Perhaps you’ve also chosen self-employment so you can spend more time with your child.

It’s a challenging combination, but with the right tools, it could be the best possible way to make a living while caring for your youngster.

Unfortunately, information aimed at helping you handle your unique situation is scarce.

This article will begin to bridge that gap by helping you find the resources you need to succeed and prevent burnout along the way.

The Statistics

Nobody really knows how many people are in your shoes.

The U.S. government reports that more than half of U.S. businesses are based out of an owner’s home. How many of those businesses are operated in households with children, let alone children with a disability or health issue?

The question hasn’t been answered, and the issue hasn’t been studied.

About 10 million U.S. children, or 14 percent of the total, have special health care needs, reported a 2008 survey by the government’s Health Resources and Services Administration. More than 20 percent of U.S. households that include children have at least one special needs child.

Tips To Prevent Burnout

Caregiver burnout happens when the stresses of caring for your special needs child are greater than your coping skills. The same can be said for running your home-based business.

Combine the two and your chance of burnout doubles.

Watch for these common signs of burnout:
  • Anger and irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Tension headaches
  • Neck or back pain
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Withdrawal from others
No one person and no one action can magically make your stress go away. But taking these four steps will help you cope.

1. Learn and practice stress-management and relaxation techniques.

2. Exercise regularly. The time you spend walking, working in the garden, lifting weights or working out to an aerobics DVD will pay huge stress-relief dividends.

3. Eat a healthy diet. It’s common to self-medicate with comfort food, but the resulting weight gain will increase your stress and reduce your energy level.

4. Ask for support from friends, family members, other parents, your faith community or paid caregivers.

Organizations That Can Help

Support is critical to your sanity as a parent and your success as a business person. The following organizations can provide help—or can point you in the right direction.
  • National Dissemination Center for Children With Disabilities, with state-specific information
  • Technical Assistance Alliance for Parent Centers, with links to regional and national parent centers
  • Easter Seals Child Development Center Network, the largest provider of inclusive child care in the U.S.
  • StrengthforCaring.com, with resources, articles on better health for caregivers and a discussion forum n

For More Information

Are you caring for a special needs child while running your business from home? Find organizations, books and websites that can help. It’s all covered in the NASE special report “Self-Employment And Caring For Special Needs Children.”

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