I am a special needs mom. I never knew that was going to be my path. I thought that is what happened to “other” people.
You know the ones – you are at the grocery store and see a child who clearly has some differences or obvious disability and you silently thank God for your healthy children. That was me, too. But, life has a way of changing your perspective on things and with the birth of my 6th child, my perspective was forever altered.
When our youngest child was born we learned, at birth, that he had Down Syndrome. To say it was a shock is quite possibly the understatement of the year. Suddenly, all the times that I had avoided eye contact with or politely smiled at a special child and then moved on had more significance than ever before. I began wondering why I didn’t go out of my way to connect more with parents of those who are different. I can tell you why: it’s because of fear. We worry that we will say the wrong thing. We worry that the situation might become uncomfortable. We figure that it is just easier to stay in the safe zone that we know so well, that means sometimes the special needs mom is left out.
Now that I am on the other side of the fence I want my mom tribe to know a few things about special needs parents.
We LOVE our kids too and we don’t want you to feel sorry for us.
Really, most special needs parents who have completely embraced their path will tell you that they do not want you to say “I’m sorry” or feel bad for them. Truthfully, if given the chance, I would not change my son or all of the joy he has brought into our lives by connecting us with others and bringing pure joy. You shouldn’t feel sorry for us because we have a perspective on life that allows us a unique lens most will never know; it is a beautiful picture.
Don’t be afraid to ask.
This one can be touchy because there is a bit of tact that is necessary but do ask. If you see a child with something uniquely different, pose the question like this, “Tell me about your child.” Moms and dads love to talk about their children and special needs children are no different. Most of us parents love to educate others because it means that we can help build understanding. Do avoid the use of the words, “What is wrong with your child?” That may elicit a very strong defensive response.
Teach your children.
Children are curious about others and that is totally normal. When in a store if your child hollers out (much to your stark embarrassment) WHAT IS WRONG WITH HIM/HER??? Use that as a teaching moment rather than covering your child’s mouth and running out of the store mortified. Talk to your child and if you don’t know about the difference you have observed, take your child over to what they are seeing and ask if you can introduce your child to the individual. This goes a long way in showing our children that differences are not to be feared or avoided.
Include special needs moms.
We need “mom time” too. Yes, our playdates may sometimes look different but just inviting us can mean the world. By including those with differences in your park dates or splash pad adventures, you are demonstrating to your children that the world is made up of so many different individuals and helping them learn inclusion from an early age is always a good idea.
From this special needs mom to the rest of my mom tribe, know that we aren’t that different. We are all on this path of motherhood together, some of us just have to navigate it in a different way. Don’t be afraid to reach out, connect with, and learn about differences, you may just make the day of a mom and educate yourself and your own children in the process.
Guest Blogger: Rashmi Adwani
Dawn is a local mom to 6 children, the youngest of which was the impetus for her blog and the children’s book she authored and released in 2018. When not writing, you can find her barefoot in her garden chasing away the chickens and enjoying the laughter of her children. Dawn enjoys homesteading, traveling, cooking, and designing jewelry all while trying to change the world to be a kinder place for her children to grow up in.