We have a new Featured Parent to introduce you to! Susie is a parent to a kiddo with special needs and graciously answered a few questions.


Fun and Function: Who are you and your kids?

Susie Hrenko: Susie Hrenko, and my son, Graham (6 years old), and daughter, Heather (5 years old.)

  FF: What is the nature of their special needs? SH: My son has Asperger's Syndrome.


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

SH: I think the biggest challenge is treating your child like a regular kid. Yes, Graham has his limitations with his sensory and behavioral issues, but I still need to let him be a kid. For an Aspie, he's very social. He wants to be a part of the group so badly, and sometimes it's hard to let him go, knowing that it may end with a meltdown or with another child not understanding why Graham acts the way he does. The worry about how the other parents will react if Graham has a meltdown in front of them, even when I've explained things and they are aware of the diagnosis. It's hard not to limit him based on what I think may happen as opposed to letting him try it on his own and put some of those social skills classes to the test.


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

SH: My greatest joy is when there is a breakthrough in Graham's behavior. The first time he told me a joke, I almost cried. The time he was so upset and I knew, just knew, a meltdown was imminent, but he turned it around and calmed himself down. When he sees me eating something and asks what it is, and can he have a taste. When he apologizes to his sister for something before I have to tell him to. When he asks me how my day was when he returns from school. Such small things, but huge in our lives.


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

SH: My husband is my rock. He's a professional firefighter and works 24 hour shifts, plus all the overtime he can get to help us out in this economy. I am able to stay home and make sure Graham gets all the therapies he needs. It means my husband may be gone for days in a row, but without him I wouldn't be able to function. He's the best husband and father I could have hoped for.


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

SH: My local support group. When Graham was diagnosed, we received very little information about what we could do outside of his IEP. Through my research, I met two local mothers interested in starting a new support group for parents of kids with HFA, Asperger's, and PDD-NOS. Our group is a year old and doing well. I get double the satisfaction from the group: the parents who have more experience can share their information with me, and I can help the new parents get through the beginning of their journey.


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

SH: Educate yourself. Read everything you can on your child's diagnosis. Find a local support group and go to the meetings. Network. Talk to other parents and see what their experiences have been. Only you can be your child's advocate, so know the laws and what you can do for your child. And remember that no matter what the diagnosis, your child is the same person he's always been, and you still love him. Now you can go out and fight for him, too.


Susie, 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!