The Small Difference Between Special Needs Parents and Everyone Else

Parenting a child with special needs has a lot of added challenges, but essentially it’s not that different from raising any other child.

You change your priorities and routines, centering your days around their needs and spending many sleepless nights looking after them when they’re sick. You suffer when they struggle. Every little laugh seems like the most wonderful sound in the world. You worry about their future, so you try to give them the best tools to become independent and confident adults. In other words, you give of yourself completely, forgetting about your needs and desires. This is something you learn as you become a parent sooner or later.

What makes our journey a bit different is the intensity and speed with which you have to learn to be that selfless parent. Suddenly you’re thrown into a world in which nothing makes sense. Hospitals, therapies and specialists you didn’t even know existed, diagnoses you can hardly pronounce (never mind understand). You read about milestones that are just a painful reminder of what your child cannot do. You also learn to swallow your tears when you see another child his age doing things so effortlessly. You throw away the plans and dreams you had of a neat and predictable future.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 8.37.58 AM

Instead, you become a self-trained nurse, avid researcher, expert dietitian, personal coach, interpreter, advocate and campaigner for your child’s rights. You have to learn all this fast. There’s no time for becoming, you must be that parent, that special parent who hopes — despite the worst prognosis — who gets up every morning even when your body just wants to stay in bed. That parent who sees no limitations of what your child can achieve. A parent who believes in miracles.

There’s grief but no time for grieving. You learn to enjoy the now and what is, appreciate the little moments, and as any other parent you just give of yourself completely, expecting nothing but a smile in return. After all, it’s the biggest and craziest act of love I can think of.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Other

How My Faith Helps Me Be a Parent to My Children With Special Needs

Dear Parent of a Child with Special Needs, I see you. I see you waking up yet another morning, looking at your calendar to check and see which therapy or doctor’s appointments the day holds. I see you picking up, feeding, changing, holding, helping, sitting up, pushing around, positioning, carrying, cleaning up, taking care of [...]

A New Diagnosis All Parents of Special Needs Children Will Understand

My mom kept my daughter, Julia, last night so my husband, Wes, and I could have a mid-week break. Over dinner we talked about how we both feel like crazy people lately, and I shared with him my theory that all special needs parents have my newly created diagnosis: CTSD (continued traumatic stress disorder). How [...]

Why I Stopped Saying 'Just as Long as It's Healthy'

After four boys, I get asked the famous question often: “Are you hoping for a girl this time?” It’s just a conversation starter, but for families that already hold four-of-a-kind in their family poker hand it’s kind of expected. And my usual response, like many others, has been, “Just as long as it’s healthy.” But [...]

Who Got the Deal?

In college, a friend at the time taught me an awful game called “Who Got the Deal?” where you basically judge couples solely on appearance and decide who between them got the deal. (Awful, I know! Feel free to scorn my 19-year-old self; she deserves it.) Anyway, we would sit in the plaza in between [...]