When raising a child with multiple special needs, we’d all like to think we’re observant parents.
But I’ve found that while managing high-intensity conditions in my kids, it’s easy to miss the most “normal” childhood issues. In the wake of bipolar meltdowns, panic attacks, sensory processing challenges and behaviors driven by Reactive Attachment Disorder, I’ve missed a few doosies over the years:
- Seasonal allergies. My second daughter came to our family Failure to Thrive. So when she threw up every morning after breakfast for the first few months home, the doctors and I figured it was because she was adjusting to eating regularly. In fact, it turned out to be a sinus infection due to mild, untreated environmental allergies. She’d swallow mucous all night as she slept, and the first food she ate each day just couldn’t stay down.
- Lice. With multiple foster placements before they came to our family, my two oldest girls were understandably guarded, and wouldn’t let me wash their hair until a week after they arrived. By the time I go that shampoo in, full-grown lice was visible and having a party on their heads. If they hated the idea of me touching their heads before, they REALLY, REALLY hated it after the two weeks of lice combing.
- And, this week? The need for eyeglasses. This one totally floored me. Mostly because my oldest has about a half-dozen mood, mental, and emotional disorders, and I’d honestly assumed the reason she wasn’t writing down her assignments in class was because she didn’t want to. Kind of like how she doesn’t want to unload the dishwasher each day. But, no. When we went in for her well-child visit (a term I don’t entirely understand…) the doctor informed me she can’t actually SEE the board in class.
Fortunately, she loves shopping. So when my sweet, challenging girl heard “Let’s go get you some cute glasses,” all was forgiven.
< – – Here she is, in all her eyeglass glory. And there I am, behind the camera, a proud mama going through a very “normal parent” moment with one of my kids and her “very normal” impairment.
Perhaps you’ve not missed any basic needs in your kids while going after the more intense ones. But just in case you have, may I offer a few ideas as a parent who’s done it too?
Dump the guilt.
You made a mistake. Congratulations, you’re human. Apologize if the misstep hurt your child or anyone else, give them a hug, right the wrong, and then leave that mistake in the past where it belongs.
Notice what you’ve done well.
Mistakes have a great way of eroding our confidence. But we have to choose not to let them. When the fear creeps in, take out a pen and paper and write a list of every way you’ve helped your child or successfully solved a problem regarding their special needs. If you have to, tape it to your bathroom mirror for a while (or forever…) to help you hold on to the truth instead of the fears.
Invite supportive feedback.
We all get weary at times. It’s normal and expected in a life-long care-giving role. So enlist some friends you trust to help you look at your child with fresh eyes every once in a while. I’ve got a few people in my life who have permission to let me know if they notice a new issue brewing in one of my girls and I don’t seem to see it yet. There truly is safety in a multitude of (wise, invited) counsel.
In this special needs parenting journey, we’ll love our kids like crazy and care for them beyond what we ever thought we could handle. We’ll also make mistakes. So let’s choose to see those moments with the right lenses: ones made of acceptance and trust.
What about you? Have you missed typical childhood issues while parenting through more intense ones? How’d you handle it?