The Special Needs Parenting Secret I Really Need You to Hear


Come close and listen. Stop thinking about the grocery list and the phone calls you didn’t make and everything else on your mind right now. This is important.

I have a secret to tell you.

It’s not your fault. 

That’s right.

It’s not your fault.

I notice your head nodding, but your brain is flooding with “logical” arguments about why this is your fault. Things you’ve told yourself when you’re angry or frustrated and don’t know what else to do. Things others — in-laws, partners, friends and even doctors — have hurled your way in a desperate attempt to make sense out of the unexplainable. We all feel good when we can pinpoint the “problem” and place blame. Temporarily.

It’s not your fault.

Your parenting didn’t cause this. You weren’t too lax or too firm or too attached. It’s not because you fed from a bottle or went back to work. Or because you breastfed on demand through toddlerhood. Children with special needs are born to all families of all parenting styles. We might learn ways of shifting our parenting to provide more support based on our child’s needs, but that doesn’t mean your parenting caused this. It didn’t.

It’s not your fault.

This has nothing to do with how much effort and love you have (or haven’t) poured into your child. Effort may lead to finding new supports. Love may make tough situations easier to get through. Special needs show up regardless.

It’s not your fault.

Your genetics aren’t your fault either. Last I checked the make-up of your own DNA is not within your control. You can’t help whether your hair is naturally curly or the color of your eyes or anything else about your make-up. You didn’t choose your genes. You didn’t choose which genes your child would inherit.

It’s not your fault.

Your family planning choices didn’t cause this either. Maybe you chose to bring a child into this world that you knew would have special needs or at least had a high chance. Or maybe you chose to adopt a child with special needs. I hear you. You made both ordinary and brave choices about your family. You still didn’t create those special needs. 

It’s not your fault.

It’s not your fault that sometimes life is really hard, that you have so much on your plate. That you spend your days at the doctor’s office, your nights trying to soothe and your afternoons in therapy (both for your child and yourself. And maybe your marriage too). That you struggle to juggle your own needs with your child’s needs, your partner’s needs and your friends’ needs. There’s more need than a person can reasonably meet, and much of that need will go unmet.

It’s not your fault.

It’s not your fault that sometimes you’ve wished for another life, while knowing you could never trade the one you have. It’s normal to wonder how things might have been different and sometimes wish they could have been.

It’s not your fault.

It’s not your fault for desperately hoping for the next medical advancement that might give insight into your child one day, then losing all hope and sight of any progress the next day. Keeping a balanced perspective is hard. It’s a roller coaster ride for most people.

It’s not your fault.

It’s not your fault for being scared about the future. For wondering what tomorrow will look like and what 20 years from now will or won’t mean. No one really knows what will happen to their child, but it is easier to worry when your child is following a road map with few markings.

It’s not your fault.

It’s not your fault that it may have taken you months or years to fall in love with your child and that you might never love their special needs. It’s OK to let love grow slowly and unfold in its own way, just as your child is doing.

It’s not your fault.

It’s not your fault that despite all the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, you still wonder if this is your fault. If somehow, you’re the exception to the rule, and you caused this. Everyone feels that way. You didn’t.

It’s not your fault.

It’s not your fault.

It’s not your fault.

This post originally appeared on Couch to Five Acres.

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