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Challenge: Kids with Special Needs

Don't forget about the special needs students

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Academics have always been secondary to me. ABCs and 123s don't matter much when you have two kids on the autism spectrum.

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Before becoming a special needs mom, I probably would’ve worried about college entrance exams and excelling at sports. Now, I just want children who are fully seen and accepted.

My daughter started Kindergarten last year, unfortunate timing for a pandemic to sweep our nation. Change and transition are hard for any child, but those with special needs even more so. I was able to pick up the pieces long enough to e-learn our way to summer, but with so much uncertainty still looming around the next academic year, my worry mounts.

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As I scroll through social media, I see other mothers preparing for the home school battle: Bringing out crafts and chalk, making lesson plans and organizing play dates. And here I am, frightened—and if I’m being completely honest—angry.

Because special needs children require more than online learning. How will we function without personal aides, feeding sessions and speech therapists? How will we give our children everything they need to socially thrive while still under quarantine?

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I’ve always turned to our educators for answers, but this time, our whole world is one big question mark. So I’ve decided to seek solace in the few things I know for sure about special needs parents:

  • Special needs parents are made of steel. We bend, we do not break.
  • Special needs families are well-versed in unexpected news.

If your child has a diagnosis, you know what it’s like to live in the “after.” In the period time where life was coasting by then suddenly chaotic.

And because of this, you have a leg up on the rest of the population. You know the secret to survival is that we just continue to show up for our children. Even as ill-experienced and unequipped as we feel, we show up and learn right along with them.

  • Circumstances change

Remember those periods of no progress when it felt like every milestone was out of reach? Remember how awesome it was when your child finally inched toward that goal? It happened in their own time and this situation is no different. We’re in a holding pattern, but we’ve been here before. We can withstand the stagnation because we know circumstances change, and if we’re lucky, so do we.

There’s value in the valleys just as much as the peaks.

Jennifer Baumann Photography

I don’t know when our children will return to school or when therapy centers will open again, and if I focus too much on the unknown panic takes over my parenting. But equally as contagious as a virus is hope. I’ve held onto it through every appointment and evaluation and I’m clinging tight to it now.

We’ve been in the pit of anger, confusion, and frustration before, and we’ve still found our way out. We may not feel as equipped or enthusiastic as some, but we are their parents.

And right now, those are the only credentials we need.

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