20 things that parents of a special needs child will relate to
Mullingar mum Lorraine Murphy is the mother of three children. Her youngest child, Anna (6), was born profoundly deaf but has made incredible progress since having two successful cochlear implants at Beaumont Hospital. Here, Lorraine lists 20 things that parents of a special needs child might relate to.
1. People say the funniest things – and not of the ‘ha ha’ variety. Sometimes you’ll have to bite your tongue because you will hear some gems. At first this will upset you but in time you learn to use it as a chance to educate.
2. You will become violently allergic to words like ‘retarded’, ‘handicapped', ‘deaf and dumb’. Again, use this as a chance to educate – the first time. The second time, the gloves are off!
3. School reports take on a whole new meaning with full-on celebrations erupting when you see ‘managing comfortably’ scorings. Spoiler alert - you may take to hugging good teachers!
4. You are aware that your child may have been written off only a few decades ago – this both scares you and makes you feel grateful.
5. You would do anything to improve your child’s life but sometimes are too tired to get out of bed. Really, if you are a parent of a child with special needs, you’ll get this. And it’s okay – it’s okay.
6. You become submissive to the point of embarrassment whenever in the company of a professional who can help your child, even when they are churning out advice you may not agree with.
7. You may act like a teenager on a rare night out – drink too much, dance too much and feel liberated. However, you will have to wake up and face your responsibilites the next morning and you will be in hell. So you’ll go ages without going out again.
8. You will cry a lot. Not only at bad news but at movies, the news, Aldi ads... it can literally happen anywhere.
9. You will seek out parents of children with the same disability as your child. Then when you meet up, you will be so happy to meet someone who gets it.
10. You will die just a little bit every time you meet a friend who has a ‘normal’ child the same age. It’s not fair and you know it’s irrational but, man, does that s**t hurt.
11. You will have to fight for services that should be in place. This will take time from your child and it will zap all your energy. There is no excuse for this and it’s unforgivable.
12. You may notice that your babysitting options aren’t quite as rosy as you would expect. Sometimes people are afraid – not of your child but of not being good enough to take care of your child. Take it as a compliment that you are super human, which brings me to the next point.
13. You will feel inadequate. You will wonder if your child would have had a better life if they’d been born to different parents. The answer is: YOU ARE ENOUGH! The love you have for this kid knows no end.
14. You may experience sleep problems – and by that I mean a 3am nightly spiral of self hatred where you take out everything you’ve done wrong and beat yourself black and blue with it. Yup, we get it, but it’s pointless and only makes you wrecked for the next day. IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT!
15. Checking out schools becomes a mission on FBI levels. Getting the right school is right up there with breathing for us and a LOT of work goes into finding the perfect one. When you find it, it basically means you have a partner to share the worry/ guilt and work for the next 6/8 years.
16. You will become a student of your child’s disability to a PHD level. Seriously, you could lecture in this subject at third level, and, honestly, you would be a great addition.
17. You will bore the hell out of your ‘normal’ friends. They won’t get it and you know you probably wouldn’t either if it wasn’t happening to you.
18. You may mourn the future you anticipated for your child. That’s normal and it’s okay (just don’t turn on the Aldi ad.) One day you will be ready to dream again.
19. Everyone will have an opinion and think their opinion is the only opinion. Think strangers rubbing your bump when you’re pregnant (eugh!). YOU are the only one who gets to say how your child is raised – to hell with everyone else!
20. Your life and that of your family’s will never be the same, often for the better. Special needs kids often bring patience, understanding, advocacy skills, happiness, mindfulness, humour, hard work and tolerance to a family. Think differently-abled, not disabled, and you’re on the right track.