Unless you are raising a special needs child, you don’t understand. The daily struggle is real. Try and imagine the work of exhibiting patience, discipline and love while a child presses into you with challenging behavior day after day.
Note: This is an anonymous guest post. A reader wrote to me with her experience. It touched me and resonated with me. I decided to post it to share her experience so that other moms, struggling in the same way, might feel understood and not alone.
Unless You are Raising a Special Needs Child, You Don’t Understand
I went into parenting expecting one thing – anticipating normal. What I was given was not your average child with your standard needs.
Instead I was given a child that would become a tool of refinement in my life.
This little boy would struggle. He would make our family struggle. There would be marital fights surrounding his life. Worry, anxiety and anger would stem from his existence.
Love would also come. Day after day. Through the challenges it would persist because love is a choice. I choose to love this child and raise him the best that I know how, but it doesn’t negate the pain that also marinates within.
Unless you are raising a child with special needs, you don’t know what it is like to take everything you thought you knew about parenting and throw it out the window.
Standard parenting strategies work with my other children. Consistency and loving discipline are the key. Not with this child.
This child doesn’t respond to time outs.
He doesn’t respond to typical consequences.
Spankings only exasperate the situation.
Rewards do little to help improvement.
New strategies are needed, and they are hard to discover and hard to implement as a united front. There is a lot of trial and error. Failed attempts at discipline are the norm. Defeat is a reality. Yet determination and love persist.
Unless you are raising a child with special needs, you don’t know what it is like to yearn for normal.
You don’t know what it like to wish your child could handle being on a sports team without causing destruction in his wake.
There is a longing to be able to go to an amusement park or parade without anticipating a melt down. The crowds will be too much. He will get overwhelmed. He is going to lose it. “His brain doesn’t process the noise like other children’s brains,” I try to remind myself so that restraint trumps exasperation.
You don’t understand what it like to ache for your child – to want them to have real friendships. I always anticipated a home filled with lots of friends and lots of activity. It’s so hard when you don’t see your child connecting with others.
There is also the challenge of knowing that your child does need to experience consequence for his actions. Taking away play dates might be a necessary reality. If you can’t treat your family with respect and kindness, how can we trust you with others? You can’t yell at us all day and expect reward for that behavior.
Unless you are raising a child with special needs, you don’t know what it’s like to try everything.
The countless appointments to doctors, counselors, and specialists is daunting. Will this diet change his behavior? Did we find a supplement that works? Is the therapy making an impact? Do we have to medicate our child? The constant questions that bombards a mind is exhausting. The time, money and efforts of all, will it make a difference?
Whether your child has ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder, sensory processing needs, autism or some other disorder that seems to be plaguing our children, as a mom of this child with special needs you live in a state of anxiety.
I am constantly questioning whether I am too strict or not strict enough. Am I doing all that I can? What is the cause? What is the answer?
The public meltdowns are embarrassing, and the looks of disapproval are heart breaking.
They don’t know. They don’t understand the pressure you are under every single day raising a child with special needs.
There is no way they could know the painful cries of your heart.
What would our family look like if this child wasn’t there?
How can I dislike my own flesh and blood?
There is guilt for these feelings. There is a desire to flee. You never would, but you fantasize because the day in and day out is exhausting. It has changed you. It has changed your family.
Unless you are raising a special needs child, you also don’t understand the determination. It takes perseverance to choose to show up every day.
There is a lot of effort to chose kindness when you are filled with anger, joy when you are feeling defeated, and hope when you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I am a mom. I will persist. That is just what we do. Defeat isn’t an option. Hope abounds. Love will triumph.