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Fears and Raising Children with Special Needs

When we are sharing here on Support for Special Needs about the unique challenges of raising kids that have differences there’s always someone to offer a different perspective. In doing so they make you think about how grateful you are there is someone who truly understands.

We all have different perspectives (obviously) on what to focus on, what motivates us to keep going each day (when the day kicks us in the teeth) and in what way we present our stories (public or private, positive or negative). We all have fears. Some of us share our fears; some have them but are afraid to share them.

During my son’s battle with kidney failure, a botched surgery, kidney transplant, and subsequent frightening depression I had many fears for his safety, for his general well-being, for his life. I didn’t voice my fears about him dying very often and I tried to shut them away during the period of time he was suffering but it was an underlying tone for me. My husband wasn’t able to voice it, think about it, or hear me talk about it either. It was a hard time to have those fears.

Some fears that I and other community members have…

  • –          Financial security, for us now and our children in the future. Keeping insurance, hitting maximums before our kids are 5 or 10 and the many out-of-pocket costs of taking care of kids with special needs. Many of us are  discussing  special needs trusts before our kids are five.
    –          Independence into adulthood. We want our kids to have as much independence as they are able to gain. We worry for their safety and happiness.
    –          Bullying. We worry our kids that their developmental, physical or mental challenges will be the target of bullies. For me, this started at kindergarten and continues…
    –          Change. For some of our kids change can be extremely difficult to navigate. Early on we learn that they don’t like natural transitions in the world and we grow to fear it because adjustments are difficult. For parents, sometimes change means a progression in a disease symptom, medication, treatment, or arrangement. Sometimes we fear it. Greatly.
    –          Acceptance. Tied to bullying of course, but acceptance is huge worry for many of us. We want our kids to grow up being able to experience typical things everyone wants to enjoy…friendships, inclusion in social events, feeling welcome in new  groups of people, sleepovers. Acceptance.
    –          Education. We want what is our child’s right. Reasonable access to education. We want a compassionate education team, we want services that will help them, appropriate classroom settings and people to treat us parents/caregivers as part of the team. We want everyone to help our kids reach their potential. Period.
    –          Abandonment. Sadly, the acceptance item on this list extends even to people who love us. Our kids aren’t “perfect” and some come with a lot of management; behavior issues and plans, problems with eating, dressing, toileting and speaking. We want the people who love us to try to understand that we’re doing our best and we don’t want you to abandon us because it gets rough. It gets rough a lot.
    –          Relationships. Fearing change in relationships because of the relentless needs. Along with that I fear losing myself. Period.

Community member, Michelle Howard said, “I hate the word fear. It has too much power over people.” While fear can permeate my subconscious it doesn’t rule my life. For me and most of the parents of special needs kids I have contact with letting fear rule us would mean that we have to pull energy from the job of managing the special needs our kids have and our time is too precious.

I’ve learned to live with fear. It’s something the forces me to grasp my reality and it’s sometimes what propels me to seek out and appreciate the joys.

Originally published in January 2011

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