The Mighty Logo

50 Ways to Know You're a Special Needs Parent

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

I often scroll past statuses from my Facebook friends who are special needs parents. They can be hilarious, witty, sad and anxiety-inducing, and they all without fail draw us closer. Special needs parents are the first to stop and comment, even if it’s a virtual hug. For most of us, knowing we’re all in this together can turn a stressful day into a manageable one. This list will remind you you’re never alone.

1. You pack exact required change for two chocolates from the hospital vending machine while waiting for an ambulance.

2. You own more snot-suctioning devices than is either reasonable or anticipated.

3. Your invitations to BBQs and get-togethers dry up.

4. You have a hospital bag, toy bag and food bag packed permanently and left next to the back door for a quick exit.

5. Your family and friends don’t bat an eyelid to your child getting naked and raiding their pantry.

6. You realize you’ve downloaded several hundred apps in the App Store “just to try.”

7. You know more government departments by their acronym than a public servant.

8. You find yourself being more accepting of other parenting styles and far less critical of the decisions other people make in their lives.

9. You can translate an eyebrow raise from your child with 100 percent accuracy.

10. You’re constantly told that God only gives his special gifts to people he thinks can handle it, and the only way to reply to such a silly statement is by smiling and nodding.

11. You visit someone who baby-proofed their house just for you, and they greatly underestimated your warning when you said, “He’s a runner!”

12. Any mention of prenatal testing in a group of friends is followed with a gasp and and awkward silence.

13. Every new thing your angel does brings a tear to your eyes.

14. The staff in your local emergency department knows exactly how you have your coffee.

15. You have a fine-tuned three-minute elevator pitch/crash course for people who ask about your child’s condition.

16. You can recite the paid parking prices at the hospital.

17. You find your child in the fridge, and rather than get cranky, you’re excited that a) They opened the door themselves; b) They climbed in to a tiny space unaided; c) They can say strawberry with a mouthful of said strawberry.

18. Whenever your child does something amazing like empty a whole box of cornflakes on the floor or smash a cake into a million smithereens, you grab you phone and take a picture before slumping to the floor and crying. Because if your friends laugh on Facebook about it later, you will, too.

19. You start instantly diagnosing people’s kids with things — and quickly learn to keep it to yourself!

20. You discover that “specialists” really don’t “know it all” — and you’re allowed to disagree with them and tell them what you think.

21. You get overexcited about every bit of progress your child makes, and you cry in private at every backwards step that occurs.

22. When you walk into daycare and your son is there entertaining a harem of his favorite ladies.

23. Words you couldn’t even pronounce before are spelled out to your GP.

24. The love you have for your child overcomes all those bad moments and days that occur more often then you would like to admit.

25. You have strangers you now call family.

26. You talk about (and to!) your fellow special needs Facebook mom friends more than your real life friends.

27. You’ve heard of the MTHFR gene. And you pronounce it like a swear word because you’re badass.

28. You refuse to commit to anything, ever, unless you’re standing in front of the monthly calendar pinned to your kitchen wall.

29. You’re brave enough to tell the young checkout woman (without tearing up too much) that since your 22-year-old daughter with Down syndrome has the money, she should be looking at her.

30. You have more meaningful conversations with your child’s therapist than your old friends.

31. Your favorite therapists join your inner circle of real-life friends.

32. You know ways to remove permanent marker from every type of appliance, wall and soft furnishing.

33. You become the supplement fairy.

34. Your other children are far more grown up and mature than they should be.

35. Your child just going in the race is a win for you. Even if they come in last every time, you know how hard they’ve worked to get to that finish line.

36. Going up a size in nappies is a huge milestone.

37. You use sign language across a crowded shopping center to ask your partner if they would like you to grab some beer. Seriously handy!

38. You feed a duck some bread and when you’re done, you sign “finished” to it.

39. Your Facebook feed is jam packed with stories of kids like your own.

40. You get tagged in inspirational stories of disability — two years after you read the original story.

41. You turn everything into a song. The potty song. The bath song. The school song. The “let Mommy to go bed now” song.

42. When you think, “Thank god that hospital visit is over!” you get home and there’s a slip for another one in the mailbox.

43. When you’re beside yourself with excitement that your 7-year-old child says, “f*** off” to two children.

  • One, for standing up for herself.
  • Two, for getting the words out.
  • Three, for using them in context!

44. When your GP asks you for advice.

45. When you consider quitting your job and selling your house because you can’t find school holiday care for a 6-year-old in nappies.

46. When you get told all the time how special you are. I don’t feel special. I just feel like a mom.

47. When everyone knows your kid, even though you have no idea who they are.

48. You celebrate what everyone else just takes for granted because you know what an achievement it actually is.

49. When you are exhausted at the end of the day, but you can still look down at your sleeping child and feel so much love.

50. You realize that material wealth, the perfect image, the latest fashion and the flashiest house and car don’t mean a thing about how “blessed” you are in life. You’re just thankful to know what the real meaning of life and blessings mean.

To all my Facebook friends, who contributed these thoughts on what it’s like to be a special needs parent — thank you for helping me keep sane on this sometimes intense, but strangely relatable journey. You can view the original thread (on my blog) in its unedited and hilarious glory.

Follow this journey on Parker Myles.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one secret or truth you wish you could tell others about your experience with disability, disease or illness? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: November 12, 2015
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home