Parenting special needs children doesn’t have to be isolating

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“Isolated.” That’s the word she used–a word I’ve heard countless times from moms who have kids with special needs. A word I’ve used to describe my own situation.

Yesterday I was talking with another mom whose child has special needs. She was so relieved to find someone else who understands what it is like to have a challenging child. This isn’t the first time I’ve had this conversation. I have talked with numerous moms who feel like nobody understands them. That nobody understands their children.

I remember back about a decade when my daughter was little. The looks we’d get. The well-meaning comments: “Maybe you should try … ” or “She just needs … ” Well, we did try all of those things. They didn’t work. Nothing “worked.”

It’s an awful feeling to be judged because of your child, especially when it’s due to a disability or condition that can’t be changed. It’s also heartbreaking to watch others–children and adults–judge your child. In the store. At the park. Even at church.

Yes, “isolated” is the proper word.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. If more people understood disabilities and if more people decided to withhold judgment, we could support each other. Those in the church and in the homeschooling community should be the first to support each other, but often we’re the first to judge each other.

Many moms give up on homeschooling because of the challenges of raising a child with special needs. I did. (Many families give up on going to church because of those same challenges. Brothers and sisters, this should not be!)

I have come back to homeschooling mainly because of another special needs child. My youngest was diagnosed with ADHD earlier this year. I had him evaluated after his teacher expressed concerns. His Christian school will no longer be able to accommodate him next year, as he enters 1st grade. I could have sent him to public school, but as a special education teacher, I’ve seen first-hand that kids with ADHD rarely get what they need in public school. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s just the way it is.

This time around I’m going to do things differently. I know a lot more about educating special needs children than I did the first time I homeschooled. And I want to share what I know with others. I want to encourage homeschool families who have children with challenges. That’s why I started A+ Educational Solutions and Jubilee Academy. I want homeschoolers to feel that they are able to stay the course, whether they have typical children but are burned out, or whether they have children with learning disabilities, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, or other challenges. I want them to feel supported instead of isolated.

So the next time you talk to a homeschool mom who is having a tough time with a challenging kid, or the next time you see a family at church who is having trouble with their child, consider the possibility that they may be dealing with things you can’t understand. And be supportive. Instead of giving them a look of disapproval or pity, give them a genuine smile. Instead of giving well-meaning advice, listen to them and pray with them. If you know them, offer to babysit so they can have a break. Read up on their children’s disabilities. Reach out however you can. But please, don’t make them feel isolated.

8 thoughts on “Parenting special needs children doesn’t have to be isolating

  1. Thanks for the link back to my post. I’m glad you’re giving homeschooling another try! Homeschooling a child with special needs is different and often difficult, but it can be done!

  2. I don’t know that my son will ever be able to go to a mainstream school. He has cerebral palsy, but I know I am not a very good teacher. It takes a special person – especially when that student is your own child! I am terrified that one day I will end up homeschooling – maybe after reading your posts and getting more information I will be ready when the time comes!

    1. I understand that the thought of homeschooling can be scary. But, if you think about it, you’re probably already doing it. You’re teaching him what he needs to know now, and that doesn’t have to stop once he gets to be school age. Sometimes parents spend almost as much time and effort helping with homework or providing extra instruction to their children to help them keep up as they would spend homeschooling. You may want to read my next post, Do You have what it takes to homeschool a child with special needs? I hope it will bring a little reassurance. Let me know if I can help in any way.

  3. I love homeschooling my kids and it’s really nice NOT to have to label the kids or get them tested because no matter how they are, I know them best and how to teach them based on their needs! 😉
    Glad you’re feeling encouraged.

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