If you have a child with special needs or know someone that does, this is definitely for you. As a mother of a twice exceptional (2e) child, it is important to speak on the issues I face. But my passion is unmatched when it comes to that of Sarah Birnbaum’s. She is not certified in the field, but you’d never know it. Upon our first introduction, she comes across as straightforward and ready to help.

Sarah’s journey started as a mom of a special needs child. She went through a system that, back then, offered a lot more support than it does now. Almost everything her daughter needed was offered through the Department of Education. Since those days, things have changed. There are fewer resources, more bureaucracy, red tape, and hard-to-find information. But even still, Sarah knows how to navigate the system, and can help teach you to do it too.

When you are told there’s something different about your child, there is a process your mind takes you through. In my own experience, it was denial, then acceptance, then loneliness. I’ll never forget the day my partner cried about his daughter, that feeling of hopelessness mixed with guilt. Was it something we did or could have done differently? Sarah described those same feelings to me, “when I read the Early Intervention papers, I wanted to bury it!” She needed support, not only for her daughter’s needs but for herself. She joined a support group of parents with children of special needs. As her child grew, she found herself giving advice most of the time and getting the same feedback, “You should do this professionally.” And so, roughly 10 years ago from today, that’s exactly what she did. She gives free talks around the city on Early Intervention, Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE) and what happens once your child turns 5. She offers free 30-minute consultations to start, then one-on-one consultations for a fee.

I don’t claim to be a specialist…I’m a hyper-educated parent who’s been through the mill.

Sarah calls the DOE a huge and intimidating bureaucracy with confusing layers of processes and terminology. I asked her, “what can someone expect to take away from you – from one of your talks?” Her response paraphrased: “Lots of hand-holding. The system doesn’t care where you are in the process of your mental breakdown. You still need to cope and meet deadlines for paperwork. The most important thing you can do for yourself is to reach out to others in the same boat. Lots of people find this topic hard to discuss but making connections is irreplaceable. You have to have a plan of action and don’t be afraid of labels, move through those feelings that would make you feel stuck. Decide what you need to do, what’s appropriate for your child and how to get those services. The antidote to anxiety is action. The more you’re doing the less bogged down you feel.”

Personally, I’m concerned about what happens when my child gets older. But Sarah says, “It’s natural for parents to worry about their child as an adult or how will they get through college. But it’s important to worry about the right now. The more you offer while they’re younger, the better your child’s results are.” But if your child is older, know that it’s never too late. Even adults with special needs can seek help. And Sarah offers support for older children as well.

“You can do this all without me, and you need experts more than you need me – I’m optional. But I can make the process from point A to B faster. The first step is the free talk and then a one-on-one 30 min call. Your next step is going to the specialists, then you can consider paying me for further services if you could use the extra help.” She is definitely a needed resource to utilize. And parents let her know how valuable she truly is. “When I’m feeling down, I go to the testimonials page on my site to read what parents have written about me, and it cheers me up. People really see the value in what I’m doing and that’s the best part.” No matter which stage you’re at in the process, you are sure to benefit from Sarah Birnbaum.

Sarah’s next talk is next week Monday, Dec 3rd, 2018, on the topic of “Life After EI.”
Taking place at Broadway Presbyterian Church Parish Hall, 601 West 114th St (through the red doors)

RSVP: sarah@nyspecialneeds.com
For additional info visit: nyspecialneeds.com

Michelle Caines
Author: Michelle Caines

Co-creator of Uptown Birdies, Michelle is a Harlem-born mother of three with a passion for anything educational and mindfulness. She enjoys hunting down affordable kid-friendly events within upper Manhattan and teaching mindfulness. Social handle: @mscaines & @tlbmindfulness