Calgary friends co-author a workbook to help parents with special needs children

The guide is available for purchase on Amazon

By Halen Kooper | March 4, 2022 |5:00 am

Julia Strange, right, and Jessica Nielsen, left, met while attending SAIT. Now, they've co-written a workbook together to help other families who have children with special needs.

Photo: Submitted

It’s never easy to navigate the everyday struggles of raising children with special needs. 

That’s why two local authors have teamed up to create a workbook to help families traverse the difficulties and challenges of a diagnosis.

This past December, Julia Strange and Jessica Nielsen published Parent’s Survival Guide — Keeping Your Sh*t Together: A Workbook to Help Organize the Chaos Through Diagnosis. The workbook is a guide to help ease the burden of everyday struggles of diagnosis, whether that be helping a friend, a family member, or a co-worker.

A personal connection 

Nielsen says they started the combined project of creating the workbook in November 2021 after Strange implemented her past experiences while working with Nielsen’s kids.

The duo initially met while they were both students at SAIT and their relationship grew as they bonded from both having special needs children.

“When Julia worked with my boys over the years, she implemented the workbook that she created years ago, in my house,” Nielsen explains. 

Strange has been compiling the source material since her own daughter — now 21-years-old — was two years old.

The workbook, Strange says, is for anyone new to the world of diagnoses to help them support family or friends with any sort of condition.

A wide variety of diagnoses 

Nielson’s kids are diagnosed with ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), and Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD), but she says the workbook can help with a wide variety of diagnoses.

“I have three children with very different diagnoses that range quite a bit,” she says. “It’s a starting point for any type of diagnosis.”

When they sat down to write the workbook, Strange wanted to take a general stance on where to start.

“And then from there, the medical professionals usually take over and say, ‘Yep, this is what we can do,’” Strange adds. 

Similar struggles create a safe place 

Nielsen says that one of the ways the workbook helps parents is by showing them they’re not alone.

“This workbook, it’s like sitting down with a parent who’s been there,” Nielsen says. “It allows them to take this book and pick out what they need from it, and know that there’s support there.”

For Nielsen, this book was an important tool because she is an independent author who was looking for a niche in parenting, and then challenges came up with her special needs kids.

“I’ve had a lot of people come to me and ask me (questions),” she explains. 

“For me, it’s important to help other people who are struggling because when I was first going through it, I was struggling alone.”

You’re not alone 

As a young single parent raising a daughter, Strange felt alone until she met more parents in similar situations. That’s when she realized she wasn’t the only one struggling.

“I started to get to know other parents in school who had kids with disabilities,” Strange says. 

“As I started advocating for my daughter more, I realized that I wasn’t the only one out there that struggled with day-to-day things with my daughter.”

To help with the cost of printing, Strange and Nielsen have started a GoFundMe.

“The GoFundMe page helps us to cover the expenses of printing so we can donate [the workbooks],” Strange adds. 

The workbook can be found on Amazon

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Halen Kooper

Halen Kooper is a contributor at Calgary Citizen.

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