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23 Unique Lessons Parents of Children With Special Needs Have Learned

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Parenting is an incredible journey full of challenges and lessons. When your child has special needs, those challenges and lessons may present themselves in ways you never expected. We asked our readers to share with us some of the unique lessons they’ve learned along their special needs journey.

This is what they had to day:

1. “Having a special needs child is not a punishment or curse. It’s a huge blessing. We wouldn’t have met so many awesome people. People who don’t know or love a special family… they’re missing out. Our community has a heart of gold!” — Ann Martin

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2. “I learned to be focused with my time and to schedule and prioritize events, therapies and expenses like crazy.” — Karen Hunt

3. “I can survive much more than I ever knew possible.” — Facebook user Hardlybored

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4. “The professionals aren’t always the professionals when it comes to my child. I’m the professional when it comes to my child.” — Jodi VarKonda Weldon

5. “[I’ve learned] to stop comparing my daughter to other kids. I was ‘gifted’ and competitive in school, so I was curious and excited to see how my kids would do in school compared to other kids and my own experience. Instead, I’m solely focused on her and what she can do and what she’s working on, not anyone else’s kids and their achievements.” — Morgen Stalion

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6. “There is never any reason ever to judge someone else. Whether it’s the parents of a 3-year-old at a restaurant who let their child play with an iPad throughout the entire meal and is only offered a milkshake, or the mom of a 23-year-old who refuses to turn off her cell phone at the movies in case she’s needed, whether it’s a child with ‘no respect’ or an adult who isn’t in a wheelchair parking in the disabled spot. You never know what someone’s situation is or why they do the things they do.” — Leah Sturdivant

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7. “Before having a special needs child, I truly do not think I stopped and appreciated the little things. The little things are now what keep me going. My son has an undiagnosed neurological disorder that requires him to breathe on a ventilator. I’ve learned that every moment counts and [there are] moments I’ll never get back again.” — Kelsey Rindels

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8. “I am an amazing advocate and I can and do move mountains for my kids.” — Shaneen Powell

9. ” [I’ve learned] how much (a whole lot) love a nonverbal child can express without words.” — Rhiannon Elain

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10. “Slow down. Appreciate every milestone for the huge accomplishment it is.” — Amy Jackson

11. “I am more adaptive and creative that I ever knew was possible” — Stephanie Jones

12. “There will be times when things get hard, damn hard… But you’ll be able to keep going, long after you thought you wouldn’t be able to.” — April Shaw

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13. “[I’ve learned] how hard you have to push and how not to give up.” — Jill Garcia Kramer

14. “[I’ve learned] how much joy and overwhelming happiness one being can bring to my life.” — William George

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15. “Resiliency.” — Rosa Canal

16. “[Special needs parenting] is not as difficult as people make it out be or as difficult as I expected it to be.” — Tala Rifai

17. “[I’ve learned] how much of a fighter I really am. I’ve always been a ‘keep the peace’ person, but not when it comes to my boy’s care.” — Amy Bishop

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18. “[You’ll learn] who your friends really are.” — Kelly Nelsen

19. “Compassion. It’s not like I was heartless before, but my eyes have been opened to a world of people who embrace challenge. For that I am thankful.” — Sherry Mitchell

20. “[I’ve learned] how to love fiercely and unconditionally.” — Marybeth Mitcham

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21. “[I’ve learned that] not everything is what it seems.” — Lee Taylor-Elliott

22. “Advocacy goes well beyond the specific diagnosis. It goes as far as advocating [for] heart, compassion, empathy, understanding and inclusion. It’s not only advocacy for your child but for yourself. When I went in to parenting a special needs child, I had no idea what went into standing up and fighting for my child and their rights. Now I see it is a whole mind, body and soul advocacy that takes a lot of effort. It’s so worth it though.” — Ali Mygrants

23. “There is no such thing as a ‘typical’ child.” — Judi Garabo Hayes

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*Some answers have been edited and shortened for clarity and brevity. 

Originally published: September 17, 2015
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