I’m a special needs mom. I have a daughter with ADHD and anxiety, and a baby who has had more than one seizure. But that’s not what I’m talking about. If you want to know what it’s like to be a mom to a child with special needs, there are millions of websites, articles, and resources, I’m sure. However, there are thousands, if not millions, of a different kind of special needs moms out there, and our label really has nothing to do with our kids.
I am a mom who has special needs. And in the world of special needs and accommodations, that should be valid and important. In my case, I’m the lucky recipient of a major whack to the head by a semi (I was in a car, but still…) and I have cognitive and memory problems, along with chronic headaches that affect my thinking, speech, and mood. I also occasionally pass out.
For example, in the span of six days, I forgot (and by forgot I mean NEVER thought about it beyond the initial finding out) two important things that needed to be returned to my daughter’s school, both of which impacted her day and her feelings. Schools and society gladly (and legally) go out of their way to include and help children with special needs, and believe me, I am thankful. But I am also frustrated. Why isn’t it the same for the parents with special needs of their own?
Just like with children, many people think special needs have to be blatant, something that you can see all the time, a behavior or a disability that causes you to look different. Look sick. Look abnormal. My illness is largely invisible, although it physically manifests often enough (apparently how I look and how bad my headache is are directly correlated, not to mention that the world has seen me pass out), so I can hardly say people don’t know about it. I have friends who have illnesses that make every day living and caring for children harder than it might be for other moms. I have friends and know many moms who suffer from depression, anxiety, or other psychological struggles. All are real. All are special needs. And all deserve accommodations.
Whether you have a traumatic brain injury and can’t remember shit, whether you just had chemo yesterday, or even if you were in bed all day because your depression won today, you deserve help. Moms with special needs need their own parenting IEPs for dealing with schools and dealing with life raising children.
We forget to return library books, or can’t always take the kids to the playground when they want and deserve it. We are sometimes recipients of meal trains, but can’t always return the favor. Our kids suffer because we are mentally or physically exhausted, or worse, in severe pain, and just can’t handle one more thing. Sometimes I have to make fun of my own illness to explain the failure away. Oops…couldn’t help with kindergarten homework…brain injury brain.
So what can people or organizations do to help? For me, I need an email reminder of everything—and a reminder that goes to my husband and my mother as well. I need people to speak quietly and slowly, and often I need to hear directions multiple times. I can’t be out in too much heat, especially for too long, and I can only read digitally, so don’t even think about handing me a piece of paper. These accommodations are not about convenience. This is about getting it done and doing the best for my kids.
I would like to believe that all moms are doing their best for their kids, and I believe that at the very least all moms (+/- 3% I suppose, purely statistically) want to do everything they can to make as few mistakes as possible.For some of us, though, we may be putting in even more effort and yielding less favorable results. We need resources, help, and people who care about us and our children. I am very lucky to have the last two, but would love to have access to more resources and more visibility for special needs moms… moms with special needs.