Have you ever played poker? Maybe you’ve played recreationally, as I have, perhaps using tokens, matchsticks, or chocolates for the ‘stake?’ Maybe you’re a more serious poker player, with higher level stakes? Or maybe you’ve never played the game at all. This blog post isn’t about the rights or wrongs of playing cards, but whatever your experience of the game, there is a lot about poker that is very much like additional needs parenting.

We have to accept the cards we’re dealt. Just like in a game of poker, we usually don’t know what ‘hand’ we’ve been dealt until pre-natal testing or until the baby arrives. It might be at the moment of birth that we realize that our child has a disability or other additional needs, or it might be in later years. In the game, we might add to the cards we hold, just as in additional needs parenting our child may add to their list of conditions. James, my 17-year-old, was diagnosed with autism and a learning disability at aged 2. A couple of years ago, epilepsy was added to his list, and he is currently experiencing anxiety disorder.

In the game, we make the very best of the hand we’re dealt. As additional needs parents, we make the very best of all that our children are, and help them be all that they can be. We creatively look to encourage them and support them; we strive and fight to access the services and resources that they need. We accept them for who they are and love them unconditionally through it all.

Each day, sometimes several times a day, we can also get dealt a fresh hand. No two hands are the same. We never know whether the next one will be a ‘Royal Flush’ or just a random collection of cards. But we take the hand anyway and play our best game with it.

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