Different Dream Parenting: A Practical Guide to Raising a Child with Special Needs by Jolene Philo

Different Dream Parenting: A Practical Guide to Raising a Child with Special Needs by Jolene Philo

You feel you have been dealt the wrong cards? This is not the life you expected? You don’t know where to turn for help? You find yourself with a child with special needs and you are asking yourself what is the next step. Hopefully someone will point you to Jolene Philo’s second book Different Dream Parenting: A Practical Guide to Raising a Child with Special Needs.

This is one book I liked cover to cover. It is a book that appeals to all parents of children with special needs. Jolene Philo connects with her target audience, gains their trust, and becomes their friend and ally who has most of the answers. Read our online interview with Jolene Philo here.

Jolene’s book takes you by the hand and leads you from your first step after your gut feeling warns you something is not quite right with your child. She counsels you how to get that all important diagnosis, the services, the treatment, the support, and guides you through the education system, the insurance and government red tape, and at the same time, if you are someone of faith, the scriptural references will inspire and comfort you. Yes, all parents of a child with special needs can benefit from Different Dream Parenting!

Ordinary parents, who find themselves in the difficult position of raising a child with high needs, will transform themselves, like Jolene writes, “… from ambushed and shocked parents into extraordinary advocates and decision-makers for their children.” How does the writer, a special needs mom herself, propose to others to do this? You do this one step at a time. You develop a working knowledge of the diagnosed condition. Document everything. Keep a journal. When meeting the professionals who work with you child, listen carefully, take notes, ask questions, be polite, reign in your emotions and your fears, and ask God to guide your thoughts and actions.

Jolene does not sugar coat the journey in front of you. She acknowledges parenting children with special needs is challenging. Over fifty parents share excerpts of their own story raising a child with high needs.  Readers with a child with special needs should feel understood and supported by reading Different Dream Parenting.

Ms. Philo advises parents to learn to be an effective communicator, researcher, organizer, and most of all to be a parent first, put people first. She suggests asking God to bring balance to your new, crazy life. “You’ll be a better advocate if your day blends research and organizational tasks with family time.”

Different Dream Parenting has a section on losing a child—From Lost to Comfort. Jolene does a great job on this difficult topic touching on how to tell the child and siblings, planning the funeral with the child, how to deal with grief, and how to find hope in the midst of grief.

This is Jolene Philo’s second book. On August 1, 2009 she published A Different Dream for My Child: Meditations for Parents of Critically or Chronically Ill Children. Amazon gives this description of the book,” If your child or the child of someone you know struggles with a life-threatening or chronic illness, then you know how all-consuming such circumstances are. There’s no such thing as having a normal life, only a relentless and often lonely roller-coaster of giddy hope, stark fear, blessed victories, and shattering defeatsand constant prayer.

Jolene Philo knows how it is because she and her husband have traveled that road with their own son. In A Different Dream for My Child, Jolene shares frank, heartfelt meditations to build your faith and hope. You won’t find trite, easy words. You will find rare understanding, refreshing honesty, and a wise spiritual companion to walk with you through the highs and lows that only the parents of chronically ill children can know.”

Features of  Different Dream Parenting

I love the physical feel of the book. It is the right size; the pages open well (no fighting to hold it open). Bravo for those responsible for the organization of its content and the witty titles! The reader always knows where he is in the book.

The book is divided into six sections and each has the title printed on each left hand page. Each section has four chapters with the most interesting titles and they are  found on each right hand page.  See for yourself:

Section Three

Juggling Two Worlds—From Chaos to Calm

9. Calm in the Family * 99

10. Calm with the Sibs and Extended Family * 111

11. Calm at Work and Home * 123

12. Calm at Heart * 133

Each chapter begins with an inspiring scripture quote, or a proverb and an encouraging excerpt by a parent just like you. For example, “After Nichole was born, I made it my career to know everything about Down syndrome and my daughter so I could educate those around me.  Ellen, mother of Nichole, who has Down syndrome”

Chapter titles and sub-titles are in a cursive font and this is very effective. Another very useful tactic is the use of grey boxes to highlight important information in summarized bullet format. After your first reading of the book, because of its comprehensive index, this book then becomes a great resource for all parents raising a child with special needs. It is the go-to book that would be best to leave in plain sight. The grey boxes can be reread many times also. Some of the grey boxes that caught my eye had these titles:

  • Three Questions to Ask Professionals
  • Care Packages for Adults (when child is in hospital)
  • Five Government Programs to Investigate
  • Do’s and Don’ts for Changing or Terminating Employment
  • How to Help Siblings Grieve
  • Financial Assistance beyond Insurance

Aren’t you impressed? And it’s not all. Each chapter ends with three more features.

  • A simple prayer that would be on all parents’ lips it does not matter if they are church going or not. For example, “Dear Father, the stresses of parenting can be overwhelming. The emotions of guilt, grief, anxiety, and differing expectations are straining my relationships. Show me how to deal with this stress and relieve the burden so I have energy to meet my child’s needs.”
  • A list of questions entitled Take Time to Reflect—those following the above prayer are, “What do we need to do to strengthen our marriage? Would professional counseling improve our relationship? Where can we find assistance to co-parent effectively? Who can help ease the demands of single parenting?”
    • List of Resources ~ Jolene takes every opportunity to give you links to resources. Sometimes they are right in with a paragraph. Then some are in those handy grey boxes. And always she has a list at the end of her chapters. Like everything in her book, the resources are listed by topics and alphabetized!

 A quote from Different Dream Parenting “If you and your spouse are struggling, seek professional counselling. Call your hospital, mental health clinic, or church for recommendations… Do all you can to give your kids the gift of a strong marriage.”

The book has a strong Christian message, but even readers who are not religious can very well appreciate this book by either glancing quickly over or skipping completely the religious components that are mostly at the beginning and end of each chapter. Appendix A, Prayer Guides, has seven groupings of Thirty Prayers on various topics to help a distraught parent find the words to express what is probably in their heart but sadness or discouragement blocks the words. Example, “Day 16 Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder (Romans 12:12) ~ God, life is so hard for my child and for me. I want to give up. I want to quit, but then who would be my child’s voice? Give me a heart to pray all the harder.”

If you are struggling to juggle the demands of special needs caregiving, Jolene Philo is the perfect juggling coach. With Different Dream Parenting: A Practical Guide to Raising a Child with Special Needs on your reading table you will learn the tools and tips to prioritize what is important in life and build a stable and secure environment for your child with different needs, his siblings, and for your family.

About the Author

Jolene Philo has published numerous articles on parenting a special needs child and preparing children for a hospital stay and is also the author of A Different Dream for My Child: Meditations for Parents of Critically or Chronically Ill Children. She is a contributor to a regional monthly women’s magazine and speaks regularly around the country. She and her husband live in Boone, Iowa.

In her online interview with us she wrote,”Monday through Friday, I blog about special needs at www.DifferentDream.com and about daily life at www.jolenephilo.com. I also speak about special needs around the country. More information about speaking topics can be found here.


 Follow Jolene PhiloThe Caregiver’s Notebook: An Organizational Tool and Support to Help You Care for Others by Jolene Philo

Buy Jolene Philo’s Books:

  • Different Dream Parenting: A Practical Guide to Raising a Child with Special Needs Amazon.com   Amazon.ca 
  • A Different Dream for My Child: Meditations for Parents of Critically or Chronically Ill Children  Amazon.com  Amazon.ca 

Different Dream Parenting–Book Trailer

This post was written by Lorna
Lorna d’Entremont: Co-owner of SentioLife Solutions, Ltd. the company behind KidCompanions Chewelry (2007) and SentioCHEWS (2013), mother of three, grandma of 5 and wife. She is a retired teacher and special needs advocate. Throughout she has taught all levels from grade 2 to grade 9. Lorna loved teaching and enjoyed seeing the students progress in the school system. During her 30 year career she took a few years off to raise her three children.