I never thought I would be on this road, being a mother of a child with special needs. A road is probably not the most accurate description because, often, it feels like a roller coaster. Nonetheless, this path that God has put me on has come with many blessed lessons.
If you are a parent, who has just received the news that your child has and will continue to have some specific, special needs, you may feel as though you’re caught in the rapids, trying to stay afloat, while the raging waters of information from doctors, therapists, specialists, and educators surround you and threaten to engulf you. It doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t have to be in despair.
Don’t Compare with Others
Ah, the comparison trap! We all do it, whether or not we have a child with special needs. This is especially detrimental for the mom with the special needs kid. “Special needs” implies they are on a completely different page from most kids their age, so comparing is an exercise in futility.
I used to always feel like I needed to get my child “caught up” and felt discouraged at the thought that he will always be “behind”. But caught up to what? Behind in what? Whose standards anyway? Is it in education? Motor skills? Social skills? It was stressful.
Your child’s milestones will be different from his peers and from his own siblings. An unhealthy preoccupation with the progress of others will keep you from focusing on your own child’s development.
Rejoice in the progress (no matter how small)
Sometimes it may feel like there’s no progress at all. It takes a bit of stepping outside of yourself and seeing your child from another vantage point to notice that there are changes. Perhaps recording them in a journal will help you see them and be intentional about searching for them. Don’t limit yourself to the great leaps and bounds. Progress is often seen in the small baby steps. Remember being overjoyed when your baby took his first steps. That doesn’t have to stop now.
Be Your Child’s Special Friend
Making friends will likely not come easy for your child, especially as he gets older. I have wept over my own child’s lack of friends and wept even more when I noticed he matured enough to notice this too. Party invitations will be rare, and play dates will be a challenge to arrange.
I remember that at his own birthday party, my kid pulled me into one of the rooms away from all the guests, closed the door, and asked if we could play “I Spy” together. As much as I wanted him to be comfortable with everyone else, I was the one he really wanted to be with. I was his special friend.
In some of my most desperate moments, I remember googling things like “I don’t know what to do about my special needs child” or “feeling alone being a special needs mom”. I know I wasn’t necessarily going to get answers and solutions. In reality, I just didn’t want to feel alone. There are others out there going through this right now. If you know someone who could be encouraged by this, please share this post with them. And even beyond that, be their friend.
(Part 2 of this post will be coming soon.)
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