What I Can Do

What I Can Do

“What I can do is offer myself, wholehearted and present, to walk with the people I love through the fear and the mess. That’s all any of us can do. That’s what we’re here for.” ~ Shauna...
Everyone Needs a Best Friend

Everyone Needs a Best Friend

There is something I come across a lot in special needs support groups, too often. It’s that special needs parents have a hard time connecting with people. You see, shortly after our special needs child is born or diagnosed, it becomes very clear who is going to stick with us, and who is not. Whether it be our difficulty in getting out or our lack of desire to (germs!), or our busy schedules, I often see special needs mom’s post their desire to connect with people. We all have casual acquaintances, but I mean really connect, have a best friend. I have a theory, I think they might be afraid to share the concerns and joys of their children for fear that we might think they are petty. Yep that’s it, I’ve said it. It’s kind of an elephant in the room. Are your concerns, comparing your struggles with ours, what is keeping our relationship from developing? I have seen it, parent starts with “He is a little behind in his reading…” only to have there sentence drown out an a look come across your face “Oh, well… it’s not at all like what you are dealing with.” Heck, I even see this with other special needs moms who say “I know this is nothing like what many of you deal with but…” And then proceed with their question and concern.What? How many have just not asked for fear that it doesn’t compare with what the rest of the group is dealing with? Let’s get it off the table. Parenting is not easy regardless of if you are raising a typical child, or...
3 Reasons I Don’t Mind When Young Children Point and Stare at My Child With Special Needs

3 Reasons I Don’t Mind When Young Children Point and Stare at My Child With Special Needs

I might be making several generations of special needs parents angry by saying this, but it’s true. I don’t mind when young children point and stare at my child with special needs. In fact, I like it! I’m such a rebel, I know. ‘Don’t point’ and ‘don’t stare’ are pretty basic social recommendations for people of all ages. But let me explain my deviant way of thinking by sharing two examples from the happiest place on earth…you guessed it. Disneyland! Example one. I was waiting with Chloe for the rest of our party to get off a ride that Chloe wasn’t able to go on. We were sitting on a bench and a very cute family was sitting next to us. The mom was passing out snacks and planning their next stop when one of her sons, probably 4 or 5 years old, kept looking at Chloe and/or her wheelchair. His mom noticed and told him it was not nice to stare. Then slowly but surely, he wiggled his way closer and, pointing at Chloe’s pink wheelchair, asked me, “Why is she sitting in that?” I smiled a big grin, excited to talk about how we all have differences and planned to encourage him to chat with Chloe because, well, she loves making friends! Before I got a single word out, his mom went in to panic mode. I’m sure she was thinking, ‘Oh no. He was staring, now he’s pointing and asking questions. He is breaking social protocol. What an embarrassment!’ She grabbed him and angrily told him how it is not nice to point, stare, and annoy strangers....
Assistance Dogs for Children With Special Needs

Assistance Dogs for Children With Special Needs

Our first real experience with an assistance dog was at a children’s hospital when Chloe was staying there for a few days. Elliott, a big black labradoodle, came to see her several times and she just loved having him as a visitor and getting to pet his soft, curly hair. Elliott’s handler gave me some information on assistance dogs and I started gathering information. There are several types of assistance dogs: guide, hearing, service, seizure response, and emotional support (therapy). I’m going to highlight a few types that I think might apply to most readers on this site. Service Dogs For Chloe, I decided to look into a service dog, which would primarily provide physical or mobility assistance. Service dogs can be trained to do different things for children with special needs like picking up and/or carrying items they might need, turning on lights, etc. Companionship, comfort, and increased self confidence are major bonuses, but not their primary purpose during training. Assistance dogs are typically trained and certified by an organization and are legally allowed full public access under ADA regulations. This would include school, doctor’s offices, hospitals, shopping centers, etc. Many service dogs are Labradors, Golden Retrievers, or Labradoodles (for those with allergies). In order to be allowed full public access, the dog must wear a special vest and be accompanied by the child they have been trained to serve. Therapy Dogs Therapy dogs are typically put through obedience training and provide companionship/comfort, but are not trained on any specific tasks for the child. Therapy dogs are not given public access rights like service dogs, but can still be...
Life is Better With Friends

Life is Better With Friends

Keep in mind, I am not a child psychologist or social scientist. I am, however, the mother of a little girl with special needs and I care a whole lot about her being included in social situations and having genuine friends. I have encountered some positive experiences with other children reaching out and including Chloe and watching her enjoy those relationships and experiences has been a delight! Abby is a little girl in our previous neighborhood who, when riding bikes or walking past our house, liked to stop and see Chloe. During these short visits, we found out Abby was learning to read and we told her how Chloe loves us to read to her. Abby’s mom suggested Abby come read to Chloe once a week. So that’s what Abby did. Both girls loved it! We all looked forward to our weekly book readings. Abby’s mom would help her pick out different books at the library about things Chloe liked — princesses, animals, cars…. we let Abby borrow books of Chloe’s so Abby could learn to read them as well. A real friendship developed and Chloe always looked forward to her visits from Abby! Abby invited Chloe to her princess birthday party. I was so nervous for Chloe to go, thinking she might get left out or have sensory issues, but neither happened. The other girls were so sweet making sure Chloe got included getting her makeup done and nails painted. When they played with the parachute and danced, they made sure there was room for Chloe’s Cinderella “carriage.” This was one of Chloe’s favorite parties ever! At the princess party, Chloe met...