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For Parents of Children with Special Needs, Quarantine Feels Normal

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Some might call it misery loving company, but many parents who've spent years or even decades raising children with extra needs, mental health concerns, and behavior diagnoses are breathing a little easier as they look forward to the possibility of finally feeling understood.

For what seems like forever, those of us raising extreme children have felt like Neurotypical parents (those raising children without diagnosis) couldn't understand our lives of ongoing exhaustion, isolation, and overwhelm. Now, two months into stay-in-place orders were first assigned, parents raising neurotypical children are becoming overwhelmed by the pressures of constantly having to address their kids' needs while feeling trapped in their own homes. Maybe--just maybe, they will get a glimpse of what we've always lived.

Understand that we aren't wishing the lives we've been called to live on anyone else. We'd never. But it is hard to explain to friends and family exactly how it feels to fall victim to the piercing side-eyes of other shoppers when our child has a mental health meltdown in the checkout line at Target or when our son begins stimming at a public park. The kids look, the parents stare, and we are left scooping up our kiddos--no matter their age--and taking them somewhere safe from judgement, free from the embarrassment of the meltdown aftermath.

Many of us choose to miss parties, social functions, and family events because we know the overstimulating nightmare it will cause for our kids. So we stay stuck in our houses, in our hurts, and in our brokenness--alone.

We are okay feeling misunderstood--judged even. That is our reality.

Quarantine has brought next-level exhaustion exhaustion, as we haven't had access to school, aids, therapies, specialists, and the respites we relied on from grandparents and other supports who see our lives behind closed doors.

It's also brought with it what was previously unimaginable--the thought that others could one day truly understand what we go through. Because, for some reason, humans feel compelled to be heard--to be truly seen in their dark places.

And, neurotypical friends, these are our most cob-webby parts.

We love our extreme children with every fiber of our being--just like you love yours. But many days we don't like this calling that's been placed on us; to care for someone who may never be able to function in society on their own without constant care.

Many days we are worn and battle-weary. We've dealt with meltdowns, attempted to implement calming strategies and teach coping skills, all while parenting siblings, managing a household, keeping the place moderately non-dumpster-firey, and balancing a budget, grocery shopping, meal prepping, making appointments (sooooo many appointments), minding our marriage, and everything else this life requires.

See, for many of us, we are functioning at full capacity in quarantine because it is our nature to imagine the worst case scenario. Whether we battle anxiety or our child does, it feels normal to assume the worst and be prepared for anything. This is our wheelhouse.

Friends, we get it. Quarantine is hard. We feel for you. But please take a second to allow yourself some perspective. Feel what we fell. Walk in our shoes.

The road is long and messy, but so, so worth it. And we sure could use your support without the side-eye or side of judgement that typically tends to come with it.

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