Walking alongside the mom of a special needs child

My heart has been heavy for moms who walk that special path—one that seems mostly up hill and, often times, lonely. One of my friends has a child with muscular dystrophy and my dear friend up in New York is the mother of a little guy with cerebral palsy. There’s another sweet friend nearby whose son has autism and a friend whose adopted son struggles with Sensory Processing Disorder.

Do you know my friends? Do you know moms of special needs children? They are the ones we look at and say, “Wow! She is so strong.”

Yet, I wonder if she feels strong.

I wonder if, instead, she feels worried and burdened. I wonder if she is overwhelmed, hanging on by a thread some days, struggling to maintain a good attitude. Without a little bit of hope, it’s so easy to slide into a pit of discouragement. I wonder if she prays for healing and relief…

I wonder if she wishes she could let you into her world, so you could understand what she faces on a daily basis. After all, everyone wants to be seen. She might feel left out of conversations with other moms like awards day, football practice and college tuition.

Perhaps moms of special needs feel much like those planning their dream vacations. They’ve bought travel guides, learned some of the language, gotten airline tickets but, once they’ve stepped off the plane, they’ve found themselves in a completely different destination. The language was strange, the sights unfamiliar and the adventure ahead almost frightening.

I think most of us plan for a healthy child. We hope and dream of a typical child—one who doesn’t have to face handicaps, pain and struggles. I think that we may, at times, assume mothers of children with special needs are created different, have special abilities or a greater tolerance for loss and struggle.

They are just like you and I. When they receive a diagnosis, they lay on their bathroom floor with the door closed, hearts hurting for their little one(s). They feel the emotions mothers who do not have a special needs child feel…pride in their children, worry for their children and enthusiasm for who their child will become.

When one of my friends post her real life on social media—the down and dirty of getting her autistic child to school on time—I felt an immeasurable sense of pride in her. It’s not easy to admit we are normal. I always thought she was a super hero—always smiling, always patient. But I had no idea how hard it was for her. When she posted that real life update, she wanted us to know what life is like in her world.

She wanted us to see her normal.

These sweet mamas have endured stares, questions and insensitive comments from well-meaning but ignorant, strangers. They’ve endured advice from friends and family members who don’t fully understand, instead of receiving the love and support they desperately need.

The bathroom controversy in our country drew my attention to a post by a special needs mother. I cried as the mother of a handicapped child begged America to let the real bathroom discussion be about improving handicapped restrooms for children like her son. For him, going to a public restroom is almost impossible. He is too big for a baby changing table, so she has to spread a cloth on the floor inside the small handicap stall to clean and change him.

I cried because this mother, who would go to such great lengths for her son, is not being considered by the people in authority to make a difference in her and her son’s lives.

If you know a mother of a child with special needs, please refrain from judging. Instead, reach out to her for some adult conversation. Take time to hear her normal and offer her a break if possible. Find out what would truly bless her and do it!

If nothing else, simply let her know you see her.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15


Published June 20, 2016