One of the conclusions that I have come to as a special needs mom is this: August stinks! Plain and simple. August is a busy time for all parents with last minute vacations, buying school supplies, school registration, meet the teacher, Sunday School promotion, the list goes on and on. You see, I’m one of those “regular” moms too. I have a beautiful (neurotypical) five year old that I had the awesome privilege of doing all these Month of August Milestones with. She was so excited about it all and we had a blast!
August is a month of change. Change can be hard for anyone, but especially for a family with a special needs child.
You see, I am also the mom of a special needs child. To say that change is hard for my sweet little boy who has Autism would be an understatement. Typically, children who are “on the spectrum” require stability, strict schedules, and structure…none of which includes change. Change initiates a whole new realm of sights, sounds, smells, and people to get used to. Change initiates SENSORY OVERLOAD.
As a mom of a special needs child, besides the before mentioned “typical” Month of August Milestones that we attempt or even “stumble through” with our special needs children, there are some other milestones that we must face each August as well.
Here are just a few of the Special Needs Month of August Milestones we have encountered:
-ARD meetings: (Special Ed meetings with the school regarding the services our child will be offered) Thankfully, we have group of school staff that has been more than willing to give our child as much help as they possibly can, that has worked with us, and listened to us. This is not always the case with every special needs family in every school district. I have heard many heartbroken parents re-tell how they must go in “fighting” for their child to have services and to receive help that he/she needs. Their confidence in their child’s educators is diminished by the school’s lack of special needs advocacy.
- Paper work/Assessments/ Evaluations: You must understand that the amount of paper work that a parent must constantly fill out on their special needs child is extensive to say the least. Last week I completed a packet that took all of two and a half hours. Paperwork is a necessary factor in our situation that I am neither griping nor complaining about…but it’s the content of this paperwork that stings. This paper work is a very real reminder of your child’s delays, digression, and lack of progression. It sparks questions in your mind that you hadn't even thought of yet: I didn't even think about THAT behavior becoming an issue. Is that something my child is going to struggle with in the future? It require us parents to answer tough questions like having to circle the answer Other children consider my child different or Yes, my child has odd behaviors. And even though us special needs parents are very aware of our child’s disability and love our children so very much just as they are- it hurts. Yes, August brings the opening up of old wounds.
- New Programs (church or extracurricular activities): Each August brings an array of new coaches, therapist, Sunday School classrooms/teachers, etc. All the time you spent last year helping these people to know, understand, and love your child begins all over again with a new set of faces. This is something I have learned- people can love to work with children, but that does not necessarily mean that they love to/or feel comfortable with working with special needs children. And so this balance of personalities, feelings, and passions begins to intertwine. As the parent, you hope and pray that these new set of faces will fall in love with your child, just as you have (and as you are praying, your child is spitting all over everything or throwing wood-chips across the playground). You pray that these adults will allow themselves to be stretched and to be willing to love, nurture, and teach outside of what is considered “normal”.
Compile all of these things within the context of the “typical” Moth of August Milestones that our special needs children struggle through as it is, and it can be quite an overwhelming feat.
So, back to my original comment: August stinks!
I am sharing all this to say: If you know a special needs parent, go give them a high five, a “way to go”, or maybe even just a big ol hug. Because chances are they have been very depleted this past month. Chances are they have gotten very little sleep as they have stayed up with their sweet child throughout the night (because that’s what change does to our children). Chances are their mind keeps flashing back to the judgmental glances of others as their child laid sprawled out on the floor in the hallway because they knew this wasn't their classroom from last year, this is a new classroom. Chances are they have had a lump in the back of their throat much of the time, as they have had to “fight” for their child-for their child to be included, accepted, to receive help, and to be given a chance. Chances are they feel misunderstood because they have been operating on their last delicate nerve from all that August had to offer.
As August has come and gone, families like ours will still take a while to get used to the Back to School daily grind. Oh sweet friends, please find understanding in your heart for our little ones. They are having to adjust to so many new things right now- things that the rest of don’t even think about or take for granted. They need you to offer compassion, as do their parents.
And as for this mom, I’m headed out to meet another special needs family for dinner this evening. If you see us sitting with a blank, tired stare, you will know why. But more than likely you will see us smiling, possibly crying, chatting, laughing, and maybe even hugging; because that’s what fellowship does- it refreshes. So, go refresh a special needs parent if you know one. Because August was a doozy!
*These pictures below were our attempt at First Day of School pictures. If you have a child with Autism then you know that capturing anything on camera is hard to do! So, this is all I got! (click on the picture to see the progression)