Positive Parenting

“Not What I Expected: Help and Hope for Parents of Atypical Children”

“Not What I Expected,” by Rita Eichenstein, is an in-depth and moving look at how parents of unusual children can cope with the challenges.

Not What I Expected: Help and Hope for Parents of Atypical Children 

by Rita Eichenstein, Ph.D. (Perigee Books; $12 paperback, $9.99 Kindle)

Dr. Rita Eichenstein knows all about atypical children. As a neuropsychologist, she has evaluated, diagnosed, and treated children with psychological, behavioral, and learning disorders. But the insights she formed about her patients’ parents over years of practice surprised her. She learned that there are typical emotional responses to having an “atypical” child.

Eichenstein’s model of typical emotional responses begins with grief over the loss of the ideal child. She takes us through the denial phase, when parents struggle to accept a child’s diagnosis, and all that it means for the child and the family’s future. The next stages are anger and blame, bargaining and seeking solutions, depression, and, finally, acceptance.

For each stage, Eichenstein explains the neurobiology of the emotional response – what our brains are doing, and why. She offers practical, science-backed strategies for using guided imagery meditation, changing an angry mindset, and cultivating emotional strength. The final chapter addresses acceptance, resilience, and self-care.

It was serendipity that I found this book. I recently started seeing a therapist to work through my grief about moving my atypical child to a residential facility. I had searched for books that applied to my situation, and found none – until this one. It has been an important resource for me, and it will help many other special-needs parents.