We have a new Featured Parent to introduce you to! Not only that, but he's a professional in the special needs arena, too.


Fun and Function: Who are you and your kids?

Joe Forsell: I'm Joe Forsell, and my kids are Grayson, 3, and Lily, 6.


FF: What is the nature of their special needs?

JF: Grayson has autism, moderate to severe on the spectrum, non-verbal.


FF: What is your profession, and where do you work?

JF: I'm an Educational Assistant, SPED, at District 11 Schools.


FF: What is the nature of the special needs you work with most?

JF: Autism.


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

JF: The feeling of being helpless when your child is hurting or frustrated and has no way to tell you what would make them feel better.


FF: What would you say is your biggest challenge in working with children with special needs?

JF: The biggest challenge is the communication between us and the children. Some know sign language, some use PECS, and others have not found a communication medium yet.


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

JF: Being a parent is its own reward, but the love given from a child (especially with special needs) is the most honest, pure, and rewarding feeling in the world.


FF: What is your greatest joy in your job?

JF: Having a child look at me and smile. Being able to get that connection with a child who can't communicate lets me know I am doing something right and they appreciate me being there.


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

JF: The patience and support of my wife. She is the one who first detected something different in Grayson and pushed for answers. We were able to get him into E.I. therapy at 11 months of age, which made a huge difference for him, because of her. We work together as a great team and when times get overwhelming for one, the other can take up the slack, and together we keep Grayson moving forward.


FF: What has been the greatest help to you in your profession?

JF: My son is autistic and I gained a lot of experience because of him. Also, having a great teacher who truly cares about what she does is a wonderful resource for me.


FF: Give us one tool you would hate to live without in terms of parenting.

JF: Patience. Raising a child with special needs is a very overwhelming task and can wear down the most loving parent in the world. Being able to take a step back at times and accept a situation for what it is, and move forward, is invaluable.


FF: Give us one tool you would hate to live without in terms of your profession?

JF: Patience, again. Without that, a person can not gain the trust and understanding of these kids that is needed to help them achieve all that they can.


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

JF: Educate yourself with as much information as you can. It can seem very overwhelming because there is so much conflicting information out there, but never stop arming yourself with knowledge. Also, there are many "experts" that will try and tell you what will and will not work for your child. Believe in yourself and do what you feel is right for your child because every child on the spectrum is different and can respond differently to therapies, diets, schools, and medicines. You are your child's best advocate, never give up fighting for them. Finally, get a good support structure, whether it be family, friends, websites, blogs, or professionals. No matter how strong you are, there are times when you need help and it is OK to admit it and ask for it, plus it helps to have others who understand what you are going through to help share in the joy of the good times.


Joe, 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!