Debbie Van Den Berg
Age of parents:
Age: 10 years old
Is this your only child? No
Diagnosis of child: Sarah has ADHD, she has some emotional issues and sensory issues. She requires Ritalin for concentration and Prozac to help manage her mood disorders. I suspect she might also be on the Autism Spectrum. It has not been easy for Sarah.
What are the biggest challenges facing your child on a daily basis?
Sarah’s struggles in the world are around socialising, remedial learning issues, depression and anxiety. She struggles to filter the world, she doesn’t read social spaces well and doesn’t fit in with other girls her age. She can get terribly anxious and can have big melt downs where she looses control. These effect her confidence terribly and it takes time for her to trust herself again. The world doesn’t seem to tolerate or make allowances for girls with invisible disabilities, it saddens me to see my child struggle.
What are the happiest moments you have with your child on a daily basis?
Despite her learning difficulties, Sarah is a bright engaging child and I love the way she sees the world. She has a lot of kindness and empathy for animals. Sarah is her happiest in nature, barefoot in a park or on holiday. I would say it’s her therapy - to be on the beach or in a forest. I try to find as many opportunities to let her run free.
Are you a single parent or married? Married.
Has your special needs child had an effect on your marriage?
It had a big impact on our marriage and unfortunately our marriage couldn’t survive the stress and strain of those earlier years. Being a single parent is a challenge, not only do you have to be the main parent but I also need to financially provide for the two of us. I’m quite happy with my choice of being single and have made a lovely home and we have good friends. Life is complicated but it is also good!
What has your child taught you about yourself, both positively and negatively?
Sarah has a wonderful take on this world and I feel it has been a privilege to see things through her eyes. We forget how much our children bring with them, it’s not such disability, disability, disability all day long. I have found courage, bravery, smarts and a killer sense of humour over the last few years. I have a thirst for life that has come with the challenges of raising a child with difficulties. Negatively - it’s hard work raising a child by yourself. Its asks a lot and it gives a lot. It’s also hard to see my child struggle, I wish I could make it easier for her.
Are your family and friends supportive?
I have a wonderful group of friends, some of them are single parents. We have known each other over the years, I would say we are more like family. We look out for each other and we do interesting things together - holidays, dinners, walks together etc. I feel very fortunate to know such great people!
Do you take time out, if so what do you do to relax?
I have tried hard to make a good life for Sarah and myself. We spend a lot of time outdoors, walking our dogs. We have a nice group of friends that we socialise often with. Life is precious and it must be lived.
What has made the biggest difference to your child’s quality of life?
Education. Sarah attends an excellent remedial school, being a working parent I don’t have enough time in the day so a lot of her therapy and other interventions get taken care of at school which gives me time to just be her mom in the evenings. A real shift happened when it was no longer about “fixing” Sarah but about understanding and appreciating her for who she is. Seeing the gifts as well as the challenges. Anxiety, Depression and other mood disorders can also affect children, it took a long time for Sarah to receive the right medications to treat these conditions. What a difference it has made to her confidence and her out look on life.
What is your dream for your child?
I think the world is lucky to have Sarah, her take on things and interpretations are so valuable. I hope she finds the people who get her and encourage her creativity. I hope I have raised her to be believe in herself, that she has the tools to help herself with her challenges and the hunger to go out there and do her thing.