We have a new Featured Parent to introduce you to! Debbie Yost is a parent to a special needs child, and graciously answered a few questions.


Fun and Function: Who are you and your kids?

Debbie Yost: Debbie Yost. I have 3 girls. The nicknames I use for them on my blog and Facebook are Michelangelo, age 14; Diva, age 8 (almost); and Peanut, age 5. Peanut is my daughter with special needs.


FF: What is the nature of her special needs?

DY: Peanut has Down syndrome. She is pretty healthy and for the most part, we just deal with common issues of developmental delays relating to her diagnosis; however, she also has verbal speech apraxia and that has caused additional challenges in her speech development. Although she is 5 years old, her verbal speech is basically nonexistent.


FF: Where do you write?

DY: Three Weddings


FF: What would you say is your biggest challenge in raising a child with special needs?

DY: Raising any child can be full of self-doubt, but with a child with special needs you often feel the mistakes you make are even more serious. I'm constantly wondering if I'm doing the right thing if I'm working with her enough to help her through her challenges and if I'm letting her just be a kid. Every toy I buy her has extra consideration of how it will help her grow and develop. Every outing we make I'm looking at the opportunities. Every time we communicate I am working on her speech, and if I don't make her verbalize, have I failed? Add to that the worries of your other children and if you are giving enough of your attention or making too many excuses for you child with special needs and you can really get caught up in a downward spiral. It's important to remember you are only human and there is only so much you can do. Do your best and don't beat yourself up too much.


FF: What would you say is your greatest joy in raising your kids?

DY: The smiles, giggles and hugs.


FF: What would you say has been the biggest help to you in raising your kids?

DY: We have a wonderful support group in our area for parents of children with Down syndrome. I can't imagine how these last 5 years would have been without the support I received from our local guild and the parents that belong to it. When you raise a child with special needs, other parents really don't understand the struggles you go through. Sure they can sympathize, but they really don't get it unless they are in the same boat as you are. That is why is it so important to have a support group of other parents who are traveling the road with you. To be able to go to and say, "My kid is doing this," and they can respond, "Yeah, we went through that, too." It helps you to realize you are not alone in your journey.


FF: Give us one tool you would hate to live without.

DY: Television. I know on the surface that seems like an awful answer, but if used properly, television can be an asset. I think if you consider the television a tool and use it wisely it gives your child a little time to just relax and regroup. There are lots of educational shows available now, but there are also just good, entertaining shows with music and dancing. Sometimes, as parents, especially parents of children with special needs, we over-analyze every single toy and item we give our child. Our days are filled with therapies and lesson plans. Sometimes we need to just let our kids be a kid and giving them a little bit of television time allows them time to just be and to regroup for the next big therapy or lesson. It's something that makes them like almost every other kid out there. Not to mention, it gives me a few minutes to regroup without being constantly bombarded with questions or snack requests.


FF: If you could give one piece of advice to another parent who's child has just been diagnosed, what would it be?

DY: Remember, your child is a child first. Don't get so caught up in medical issues and therapies that you forget to just stop and enjoy your child.


Debbie, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us and all the readers here at Fun and Function.

If you would like to be a featured parent or professional, just let us know!