I have a child with special needs
I have never really said this before. At least not publicly. Maybe because I simply don’t like the sound of it. Maybe because I dislike the idea of people making incorrect assumptions about my child. Maybe and most importantly because this is not the most important aspect of my child. I don’t want that label popping up in people’s minds when they think of my girl. She’s so much more.
I have an intelligent, quirky, creative, talented child with significant learning disabilities.
The road has been hard, and bumpy, and twisty. It started in preschool where teachers first began to notice major differences between the way she functioned in comparison with all the other children. I wasn’t immediately proactive. She was 3 and I wasn’t ready for labeling, and evaluating, and what I felt like was some form of prodding my itty bitty girl.
Our journey began when we moved to Virginia, and she was a year older, a year closer to elementary school. The teachers were saying the same exact thing, and I got with the program. Fast.
I’ve gone through evaluations (what feels like so very many). I’ve gotten bad news. I’ve met with teachers that are clearly at a loss. They don’t know what to make of my child and they don’t hide it. I’ve been honest about the fact that I sometimes feel the same way. I’ve had moments of extreme pride at her progress, when she shows us just what she is capable of and I am blown away by her. I’ve had moments of extreme distress at her regression. I’ve sat through meetings, blinking back tears with the last bit of control I have left, and allowed myself to dissolve into a puddle of tears as soon as I was back in the sanctuary of my car.
I’ve learned that some educators and specialists do not understand how hard it is to hear the long list of all that is “wrong” with your child, of all of the concerns and the benchmarks they are not hitting. Sometimes it can feel like an assault, and it’s all I can do just to get through it. To get through it and find some way to be hopeful that my girl will persevere sometimes feels so daunting.
I’ve welled up with tears of gratefulness for the educators and specialists who do understand this, and make sure to also tell me the things about my child that are wonderful. The things about my child that they enjoy. That she is sweet, intelligent, caring and attentive to her friends, silly and so, so funny. That she loves to sing and seems destined for the stage. Things that I know to be true. Things that I hold near and dear to my heart. The things that make Julie who she is.
They tell me that they are just as committed to her success as I am, and that even in the face of setbacks, together we can help Julie to reach the goals we have set out for her. Thank God for these people.
I have felt overwhelmed. I have felt guilty, for feeling frustrated with my child, for not having enough patience with my child.
I have felt hopeless, powerless, bewildered.
In those moments where it feels like all the hard work was somehow wasted, and we’ve gone backwards yet again. When I can’t even think of how to move forward, I allow myself to experience these feelings. I vent. I cry hard. I take a deep breath and find the strength deep within. The strength that comes from a love so deep it cannot be described. The love that I have for my child.
I will find the hope, and I will start over.
I will ask for meetings. I will have uncomfortable conversations with teachers. I will advocate for her.
I will push her to do better when I know she can. I will push myself to do better.
I will always start over for my child. As many times as necessary.
Because she is truly an amazing human being, brimming with potential.
Because I am her mother, and I love her, and all the parts that make her, her.
Because I know she can do it.
So can I.