To All The Moms

Mothers (and fathers) of children with disabilities encounter challenges and sometimes debilitating emotions along with pride, happiness, and endless love that goes with special needs parenting. Fear and isolation, concern for their child’s future, constant anxiety rooted in how to best help their child, sadness for the cultural, educational, and societal isolation felt by children and parents alike, and constant vigilance, advocacy, uncertainty, and exhaustion is woven into our daily lives. Forever. Grief is usually a permanent companion on this journey.

Most mothers of children with disabilities won’t tell you about their honest and raw feelings because they are afraid you’ll judge them as pessimistic, negative, critical of their child, a worrywart, perfectionistic, or worst of all, resentful of their own child. Typical parents will never comprehend the stress and overwhelming exhaustion that permeates a special needs parent’s very being.

This is why most parents don’t discuss their feelings about the difficulties of parenting, especially outside the special needs “tribe.” I recently read a thoughtful essay titled “A Mother’s Reality of Raising A Child with Special Needs“. In it, I found the rare gift of understanding, which I hope you will share with every special mother in your life.

To the mothers we serve, we wish you a Happy Mother’s Day that celebrates the moments of joy and accomplishment in your lives—getting those additional minutes of services at school, outgrowing the need for AFO/SMOs, seeing that smile after racing in Special Olympics, finding the perfect day program, saying first words, landing on a therapy or medication that helps (yours or your child’s!!), living in a home of his or her own, taking public transportation, out-earning government benefits, trying out a job, and enjoying rare moments of real connection. May these moments last long and fuel your never-ending work.

Ways to Support Mothers of Children with Disabilities

For those of you who are not mothers of a child with special needs, but know one that you’d like to support, we have a few tips for you.

  1. Host a playdate that includes a friend with special needs. Here are some tips from The Nora Project.
  2. Tactfully explain to your own children what it means for a child to have “special needs.” For example, say “Ethan is still learning how to talk” instead of shushing your child when he asks why Ethan’s speech is delayed, or awkwardly apologizing to Ethan’s mother for the question.
  3. Include moms of special needs kids in social events—even if they decline often. Keep asking – you will help them feel less alone and provide a much-needed respite. Remember that childcare limitations may prevent them from participating often.
  4. If your kids express interest in babysitting, encourage them to work with those who have disabilities. They will have the opportunity to learn and practice empathy and gain exposure to career choices they otherwise would not have known about (2 of our former sitters have chosen special education teaching careers, and 1 will become a BCBA).

To all of the women who protect, nurture, teach, cuddle, love, discipline, and unconditionally love our children—our friends, aunts, step-moms, grandmothers, teachers, paraprofessionals, caregivers, and babysitters—thank you for being an important person in our kids’ lives. Your love for our child has impact beyond measure. Happy Mother’s Day to all! — KC