Kathy Honeyman, LCSW
Here’s what happened to me 26 years ago. I was newly married and working as a social worker—not really knowing what I was to eventually specialize in. We had our first child, Rebecca, in October of 1989. She was beautiful. As time went on, it became clear she was different than most other children we knew. Her first seizure was at 11 months, and our family’s life with a disabled child began. Many seizures and hospitalizations followed. This experience caught me totally by surprise and, because I had a vested interest in finding out everything I could regarding seizures and intellectual disability, I eventually chose a life path of clinical work with persons with IDD.
Since that time, I have provided mental health services to hundreds of adults with disabilities, and in many cases, have also had the opportunity to work with their families and caregivers. I founded several parent groups over the years, the Exceptional Parents group in New Jersey; then the Teen to Adulthood and Next Step groups in Raleigh, NC. For 20 years, each month, guest speakers volunteered their time to speak with these groups regarding various disability issues, from the effect of disability on the family to Social Security and housing information. I have also presented workshops on developmental disabilities to parent groups, disability professionals and agencies. My formal education includes a MSW degree from Rutgers Graduate School of Social Work in 1997, followed by a two-year intensive family therapy training with the Multicultural Family Therapy Institute in New Jersey, as well as a year-long traineeship with Robert Wood Johnson/UMDNJ for Disabilities. In 2015, I earned a Certificate in Health Coaching from Duke University’s Integrated Medicine Institute in Durham, NC.
Many years ago, I was speaking with a fellow board member on one of the disability organizations I was involved with. She said, “Why is it that every time I speak with a parent of a disabled child, all I hear is what the child CAN’T do.” I asked her, “You’re not talking about me, are you?” She nodded that she was! I was shocked that I was treating my daughter this way. As I look back on it, it should have been no surprise. After all, the only thing a parent hears from professionals is related to what the child CAN’T do. So, parents pick up on this. That experience changed the way I dealt with my own child, as well as the way I work with parents and adults with IDD. I make it a point to help parents identify and share with their child all the GOOD things there is to know about them. That has been the one gift that has stuck with me all these years. As parents, we need to recognize and enjoy the beauty of our children. Another wise person once said, “There is more right with our children, than wrong with them.” I apply this philosophy to everyone I work with. “There is more right with you, than wrong with you, and we can work together to make your life even better.”