Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Do You Have a Child with Special Needs?

This topic is fresh on my mind today, so I want to post something while I am so completely inspired. At our MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) meeting today, we had two fabulous women speak about what it is like to parent their children with special needs and how other parents with children who are typically developing could be more of a support to them. It was such an inspiring meeting. Both women have two boys that have autism and they described a bit about their life. Of course you may not even be able to imagine the way their daily lives shake out. Bolts on their doors to keep their children inside, having to guess what their child may want since they do not verbally communicate, advocating for their services, hiring two babysitters of which need extensive training just to go out for one night, preventing a child from climbing out of a moving car, and this goes on and on. Those are just some of the struggles, but that is not all they shared, much of what they shared was about the joy of their children. They shared the pride of watching their child learn to ride a bike without training wheels, stopping to sit and observe the clouds go by while snuggling with their child, listening to the first utterance of a word, their child exceeding all educational expectations put upon them. These children are their gifts and they appreciate what has been given to them even through all the struggles.
I taught children with special needs for seven of my nine years of teaching. Most often people would hear my occupation and say , "Oh God bless you,what a gift you are." Funny to me because I never felt that I was a gift. I had a gift to teach and I shared it with these children who gave me more than I could have ever given to them. Smiles on my bad days, a sense of pride watching them read a book when only months before they were just beginning to recognize letters, hugs and love and lots of appreciation. Their parents gave to me too, with compliments and appreciation and relief to know that I truly cared for their child. I miss being able to share in this way now that I am home with the my own kiddos, but I know that some day I will be back there working with amazing children and their inspiring families.

Some of today's lessons to those who do not have children with special needs were:
  • Include their children in birthday parties and attend theirs.
  • Extend an invite to a play date or go to their home for one.
  • Ask questions if you have to about their child.
  • Don't always assume a child misbehaving or acting out in public is typically developing, they may have a special need. Don't automatically blame the parenting for their reactions and behaviors.
Do you have a child with special needs? What lesson would you like to share?


  1. Hi Lindsey - as you know, my kids who have "special needs" are a gift from God. He makes no mistakes and I am thankful every day for my girls. Bailey's CF is scary, and Tatie's SPD can be a handful, but it is them. Bailey's CF has added to her empathy - all of our trips to CHOP and seeing children of all kinds has opened her eyes to that which many children her age wouldn't know about. Tatie's SPD has changed Kevin and I - we have more patience, and the love we have for her and her quirks is just overwhelming, amazing. My heart goes out to these moms of kids who can not communicate, or who need things like multiple locks to keep them from getting lost. I feel that they are misunderstood - them and their children. They didn't expect this life, but here it is - and they love their children. Comments like "I don't know how she does it, thank God that's not me" can be hurtful - even if just said through your eyes. A mom can tell you are pitying her, and that's a terrible feeling. Because all - well, most - moms think their kids are a gift, and they want other people to see them as a gift too. :) Love you, love this post!

  2. At the end of bad days, what I want is a button to push to keep my children from exploding. Sometimes, it's understandable (they're tired, they're hungry, etc.) so when they fall apart, it's easy to sympathize. But then there are days when Alex falls apart and it takes two hours of holding him and talking softly to get him off of the ceiling. And even then, we're not exactly sure why he was upset.

    Telepathy: that's what I need. That way I would know why Alex is upset or how to amuse Miranda so she won't get bored and bug her brother and then get into trouble and then throw things at me while screaming, "No, you stop!"

    I know it is impossible to be a perfect parent, but the stakes seem higher with special needs children. That is, if I don't get it exactly right, I'm going to have an exploding child that takes hours to calm.

    Even with excellent school programs, a supportive family, and a great church support system, we are always 2, maybe 3 steps, away from drowning, emotionally. There is no slack in our lives, ever, because if you take your eyes off of them for a moment, you never know what might happen. Most of the time, everything is okay (this is God's grace, I am certain), but once in a while, he'll bite her because he can't express to her in words how much she is bugging him or she'll rip up the picture he was drawing because she's jealous of the attention he's getting, and everybody starts screaming at everyone else. And my refrain becomes, "Oh, God, I'm going to die."

    The truth is, things with my kids are certainly better than they were a year ago, but once in a while we have this amazing day where everything goes right and no one explodes or gets into trouble, and I think, "This, this is how my life should be." And then we have a whole bunch of bad days in a row and I lose heart again. Autism's a bitch.