This is Day 2 in the series: 31 days on Living with ADHD, Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder: What We Have Tried, What Has Worked, What Hasn’t Worked, and Never Giving Up.
I have thought of many titles for this post. Judged, Alone, Failure all of these things are what society or even friends and family can make you feel when you have a special needs child. The more I thought about it though it isn’t that they are trying to judge me, it isn’t that I am a failure, it isn’t that I am completely alone without support, the primary feeling I get is that of being Misunderstood. I feel misunderstood as a parent but I also feel badly for Mr Rockstar because he is misunderstood as a child. Many people perceive him as a “bad” kid when he might just be having a really rough day because his clothes are bothering him, or he couldn’t sleep much the night before, or he is in an environment that is too noisy, etc.
The thing is, Mr Rockstar on the surface seems completely normal. Every time we start a new school or make new friends I try to briefly explain/warn of Mr Rockstar’s special needs. The inevitable response is “Every kid does that. He seems fine to me.”. If a new friend says this to me no big deal. What really kills me is when close friends or family say this because in essence what they are saying is “He is normal. So what is your problem? Why can’t you handle him? Why is he 6 and still having tantrums like he is 2?”
Even after witnessing a few of his meltdowns the general vibe I get off teachers/friends/family is “If that kid was with me more often I could get them straightened out.” Again this denying that there is any difference in Mr Rockstar biologically from average can be so discouraging. The irony in the situation is every adult I know (including myself) has started with the view that Mr Rockstar is perfectly normal and he just needs some more guidance to get back on track with his peers. Yet every adult that has spent more than 30 hrs with him one on one from his teachers, therapists, family, etc has come back and said “You know there is something really “off” about Mr Rockstar.” This is not really what you want to hear as a parent but at the same time it is reassuring that I’m not crazy!
The sad thing is just a few years ago I was one of those friends, family, parents that misunderstood other parents struggling with special need kids. I saw everything as black and white. If a child was having a fit in the grocery store or church I would have sat on my high horse and thought “What’s wrong with that parent? Why can’t they handle their own kid?” So while I can feel sorry for myself, in some ways I can see having a special needs child is a real blessing to me personally. God knew I needed my eyes opened to see that in most situations we don’t know the whole story and we need to show grace and love to people rather than judgement and law.
I am not trying to point fingers at friends or family. I think they simply misunderstand and I hope this blog goes a long way in helping people understand the struggles of raising a ADHD, SPD, autistic child. I hope it also helps other parents out there with similar struggles feel less alone. Remember if you have friends struggling with this or other issues what they need the most is some encouragement, love and grace. A little love goes a long way.