My name is Amy, and I’m a fearless, special needs mom to a 5-year-old daughter with autism. Your first thought when you read this might be, “I’m sorry…” Or if you have a kiddo with special needs yourself, you might read this and think with an understanding gleam in your eye, “Aren’t you just the luckiest to have such a gift in your family? Me, too.”
Being a mom to a child with special needs comes with as many blessings, surprises, joys, and treasures as it does challenges, heartaches, decisions, and transitions. The book of Isaiah says it best for me:
“I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by name.” Isaiah 45:3
Whether you are a mom giving support to a child with extra needs of their own or you are a friend to a mom in this special world, we can all learn from each other’s hidden treasures as we walk this motherhood journey together! My experience is my own but the more I hear others share, the more I gain inspiration, understanding, and compassion to become the fearless mom God has created me to be. The more God has shown me of my daughter, the more God is teaching me that:
I can parent her to be the daughter I want her to be,
or I can be the Mom my daughter needs me to be.
Have you been there before with me? This is the kind of mom I am; this is how I talk, how I discipline, how I schedule, how I love…this is me. For over 12 years, that is how I raised my older son & daughter (both typical developmentally.) It wasn’t until our special gift of my baby girl that I realized God had a different way for me to grow as a mom. If I took the time to see more deeply each of my kids’ riches, then I could parent for their needs, not for my wants.
I’m a total day-planner, a list-maker, and an overzealous list-crosser-offer! I love how Fearless Mom doesn’t add to our to-do lists but instead equips us to better handle what we’re already doing! Following Julie Richard’s lead, here are 4 things to note about what we’re already doing in typical & special needs families alike:
Pay attention. The most valuable lesson my daughter has taught me is how to truly get to know her. Because speaking words and sentences have not come naturally for her, she shows herself best through her eyes, her face, her body language, and her reactions. When there is no voice telling you the answer to what’s needed, wanted, or being felt, you start to pay closer attention and become a greater “noticer” as a parent. What makes them feel safe, happy, confident, capable, and what makes them feel sad, unsettled, anxious and worn out? What does that look like for my child? Giving our full attention asks us to sacrifice as moms but the payoff is always worth it. How can you begin to see your child more fully by paying close attention today?
Stock up. In our home, we are never without the essentials…which really only includes Popsicles, Mac ’n’ Cheese, and Band-aids! Parenting with special needs in mind, means special routines and special traditions. Mac ’n’ Cheese has become a yummy breakfast soup, Popsicles are the treat of choice to help self-regulate, and a box of Band-aids is the new game to “play” when we need extra love and snuggles. Can any other mamas relate and laugh with me that saying YES has become the greatest answer to showing love in a way that our kids need us to, but maybe not exactly in the way that we want to at times? What is one special thing you can say “yes” to and add to your Target or Amazon list to stock up on?
Remember. When it’s easier to spiral and think of how far your child still needs to go, choose instead to remember how far your child has come. Remember when they could not conquer that milestone yet, and then think of the day they overcame it. Remember when it was hard to have playdates, and then think of their growing friend circle now. Remember when their differences caused a scene, and now think of how their differences have changed your life. Remember the victories to help put the current challenges in perspective so that they seem more manageable.
Add yourself to the list. From one mom to another, lean in and go with me on this one. How would you feel if you started adding in these things not only for your kids but also for yourself? After all, you are the CEO of the list-crosser-offer, so add yourself to the list. Here are some ways you can be intentional about this:
- Pay attention and get to know yourself better. When feelings come up during the day, take a minute to notice them—name them—and care about them before moving on. Be kind & compassionate to yourself.
- Stock up on your own essentials that say, “I love me, too.” Spend an extra minute at Target picking out a new yummy-smelling shampoo, try out a new chocolate candy at Trader Joe’s, or buy a pair of warm slippers to welcome you home each day.
- Remember how far you’ve come, and that you are not alone.
At first, the words “special needs” were so hard to say out loud. Now I think about the fact that God has given me an opportunity to share the meaning of these words and hopefully help a mom with a similar story. It is a gift to share my understanding because knowing that you are not alone can be just as valuable as any research or statistic. We are here for you. We get it and we want to help you.
There are silver linings such as being on a first-name basis with your child’s teachers, doctors, and therapists. Working closely with the professionals helping your child is amazing and you will continue to learn so much.
Remember when you prayed for the diagnosis to go away. Now think of how you can use it to empower and encourage others. Fearless comes in all different and special shapes, sizes, colors, and needs…You’ve got this, Mom!
Here are a couple of great resources for more information about autism: