Special Needs Kids

Raising a child with unique needs presents many challenges & unexpected blessings. Real moms of special needs kids share their stories & wisdom to help other moms on this journey. #gritandgracelife

15 Ways to Care for Yourself When You Have a Child with Special Needs

15 Ways to Care for Yourself When You Have a Child with Special Needs

When your child has special needs, much of the day, and sometimes even the night, is spent taking care of someone extremely dependent upon you. A significant amount of energy and time is spent planning and strategizing to stay ahead of your child’s needs. Though I became almost intuitive in recognizing the signs and red flags of my own child’s health, I simultaneously became less in tune and downright negligent of my own. For the first few years of our daughter’s life, I did not manage my personal needs well, if at all. I dove into advocacy mode intensely and before I knew what hit me, I was suffering from sleep deprivation, anxiety, depression, and physical health issues. What I didn’t realize, until […]

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Kids With Anxiety—They Need You on Their Team

I was listening to a podcast last week featuring a popular author talking about raising brave children. She gave several examples of when children have fears, i.e. strangers, the dark, speaking up for themselves, and how you can just push them through those fears until they conquer them. Humph, I thought. This lady doesn’t have a kid with anxiety. We were at an amusement park last month, in line (for forever) for a roller coaster in front of a mom and her two kids, one of which was whimpering and even though I never could actually hear him, I gathered he was afraid because his mom kept saying, “Fine. Don’t do it. You won’t get your reward, but fine. Your baby sister

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Choosing Hard Things Is Never Easy, but Always Worth It

This school year has already exceeded my wildest expectations. My son Charlie does not like change, suffers from anxiety, and had been saying several weeks prior that he did not want to go back to school. However, in the meantime he attended an incredible week of therapy disguised as camp (thank you, Bethany Christian Services), where he learned a lot about dealing with his fears and anxiety. He was also assigned a classroom at school where he already knew the teacher, in the same building that he is familiar with, and with two friends that he is crazy about. This classroom also happens to have a guinea pig named Hotdog, which has proven to be like therapy on its own. Charlie tells me that

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10 Ways to Advocate for Your Special Needs Child

As parents, we are all aware of the need to advocate for our children. But, when you have a special needs child, the stakes seem that much higher considering the assistance you will inevitably need to face the extra challenges. Special education services and resources can be limited and in order to access them, as well as the obscene amount of finances they often demand, it will require tenacity not to mention information and skills. My determination to see my daughter’s needs met collided hard with the reality of a broken system. Files get lost, phone calls are not returned, valid needs get denied, and red tape is everywhere. In response to my expressed frustration, people often told me, “The squeaky wheel

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Life-After-Skylar

Life After Skylar

This is part three of a four part series of a young mother’s story. We were so captivated by her journey we knew you would be too. Read the first two sections of the series, here: Part 1 Life Before Skylar and Part 2 Life With Skylar. After losing my daughter, and being intentional about experiencing the full depth of pain that came with it, I was questioning my decision to avoid anti-depressants. The heartbreak was too much. It was like that time when I was in the middle of hard labor and told my husband and my doula I wanted an epidural… and they told me the next contraction was coming and I needed to breathe deep, pretending not to hear me. I wanted

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Applying Grace and Understanding in the world of Autism

Applying Grace and Understanding in the World of Autism

“If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism,” said Susan Pieples, quoting autism advocate Dr. Stephen Shore. Pieples has 25 years of experience working with and advocating for families living with autism. What she meant by that statement is that Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) truly is a broad spectrum due to the wide range in both challenges and strengths possessed by individuals with ASD. Although it’s important not to make any assumptions, it would be beneficial for all of us to understand a few things about ASD. Especially since The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that 1 in 68 children are now living with ASD as of 2015.1 With Autism Awareness Month in mind, I reached out

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Finding a Muse in the Mess: When Grief Becomes Art

Being a parent is demanding and intense, but so is being an artist. It can feel like a constant tug of war. When I had my first child I struggled with how time and space were no longer my own, and I was unable to create when inspiration struck. I wrestled with guilt and giving myself permission to make art when there was always something more “responsible” to do. Yet, I couldn’t deny the God-given passion in me to create. Often tempted to despair that I may never make art again, a voice broke through my frustration proclaiming: “I haven’t called you away from being a parent or being an artist. It isn’t an either or, it’s an ‘and.’ You get to

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7 Ways to Find the Right School for Your Special Needs Child

7 Ways to Find the Right School for Your Special Needs Child

Finding the right school to meet the unique challenges of our special needs child has been like trying to locate a needle in a haystack. I spent the better part of three years researching our options and kept them all on the table: private, public, montessori, inclusion, special ed exclusive, etc. I scoured school websites, engaged in forums, actively sought recommendations from therapists and various professionals, arranged a slew of school tours, and enrolled our daughter in a wide variety of educational settings throughout pre-school. While each place we tried had its strengths and weaknesses, none seemed like the best fit for our daughter’s needs. Some schools loved her well but didn’t have enough experience or expertise to appropriately challenge and develop

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16 Recommended Games for Special Needs Children

16 Recommended Games for Special Needs Children

I belong to a game-playing family, a love that is especially exercised around the holidays when looking for gift ideas and spending wintery nights at home with the family. With our oldest son in the middle of elementary school, we are just beginning to play more strategic and complicated games. However, our younger, kindergarten-age daughter has special needs that affect her gross and fine motor skills, as well as cognitive and verbal abilities. None the less, we are determined to involve her in our board game binges. No more sitting to the side watching the rest of us; therefore, my newest mission involves finding games that will include and challenge her at the appropriate level. This has required a decent amount of research

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Helping-Your-Child-Develop-Their-Own-Voice

Helping Your Child Develop Their Own Voice

Words and how we use them have a special emphasis in our family. Our son, a chatterbox, expresses himself to anyone who will listen. He formulates every thought that comes into his head aloud. An engaging storyteller, words effortlessly fall out of his mouth, creative and abundant. Yet for our daughter, who is nonverbal due to a genetic disorder, it takes great effort and concentration to communicate even the simplest of thoughts. We usually try to decipher her needs and desires from a mixture of gestures, signs, and utterances. Our children, ages four and seven, are completely different individuals beginning to engage uniquely with the world around them. Words or no words, they each have a valuable voice. And when I say

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Because of Skylar

This is the final piece of a four part series of a young mother’s story. We were so captivated by her journey we knew you would be too. Read the first three sections of the series, here: Part 1 Life Before Skylar, Part 2 Life With Skylar, and Part 3 Life After Skylar. Our life, even with bogus medical bills and special needs, was rich and full. We were so thankful that we had 21 wonderful months with our baby girl before having to say goodbye. Shortly after Skylar died, I remember standing in our driveway waiting for my dog to pee in the grass. It was a late summer afternoon, and I was doing my best to soak up the sun while my dog walked in circles. Vitamin

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Life With Skylar

Life With Skylar

This is part two of a four part series of a young mother’s story. We were so captivated by her journey we knew you would be too. Find part 1 here. As I left the doctor’s office, my heart sank. I knew the specialist discovered something terrible and wouldn’t tell me. Thirty minutes after walking out of his office, the phone rang. It was our pediatrician. I was sure the specialist called him as soon as I left, and now he was calling me to confirm my fears. The first words I heard were, “Ashley, it’s not good.” With our daughter being a month and a half old, and seemingly mentally alert, in my head, the worst case scenario was a lifetime of

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Life Before Skylar

Life Before Skylar

This is part one of a four part series of a young mother’s story. We were so captivated by her journey we knew you would be too. BS. That was my life before Skylar—total BS. I thought I had my priorities in the right place. I loved my husband (most of the time), and wanted to have three kids to form our perfect little family. I imagined two girls and one boy playing in our green yard, contained in a safe little bubble in the form of a white picket fence… I look back now and just laugh. I was ignorant, selfish, and terribly insecure. Change is hard. Most times, it comes with growing pains—sometimes even suffering. It forces you to face

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When There Are No Words My Child's Special Needs Diagnosis

When There Are No Words: My Child’s Special Needs Diagnosis

Other than an early arrival, our daughter’s birth came without major complication. After four short months, however, we began to notice she wasn’t meeting basic developmental milestones. Doctors began to show growing concern and recommended further testing. After extensive poking, prodding, and scanning, results returned to us with devastating news. Our daughter showed signs of mysterious brain damage of which doctors could not identify a cause. After ruling out anything life threatening, the best prognosis they could give was the likelihood of her never being able to walk or talk and the reality of living with this uncertain condition until future testing could identify the reason. As word about our daughter spread, it seemed that people began avoiding us for fear of

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Keeping a Marriage Strong When Hardship Strikes

Keeping a Marriage Strong When Hardship Strikes

Our daughter’s birth was a joyous occasion as she was ushered into this world without any complications. As far as we knew, we had a healthy second baby with a bright future ahead. Yet, at four months, she wasn’t meeting the milestones she should have been and doctors began to show growing concern. After recommended testing, we were told crushing news. Our daughter showed signs of mysterious brain damage that must have happened while in the womb. There was immediate medical concern for her life as doctors were in the dark as to any specific cause. The best they could offer was a prognosis that she would likely never walk or talk and we would have to continue living with the uncertainty

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