With the kids home from school for the foreseeable future, parents across North Texas are finding that parenting during a pandemic is definitely a challenge. But what if you’re parenting a child with special needs? Our mommy blogger Stephanie is mom to two kiddos with autism, so she shared her take on parenting kids with special needs during this difficult time.
My daughter’s spring break happened to perfectly align with the recent surge of cases of coronavirus.
I had been looking forward to this extra time together. Since she entered kindergarten, she’s inevitably spent more hours in a classroom than with her mother.
And as with any relationship, quality time keeps connection strong. We both desperately needed to put work and school aside and make new memories.
I was mentally prepared for this newfound time together to last one week.
About mid-way through, we learned schools would be shutting down indefinitely.
This was a staggering blow for a lot of parents, but maybe even more so for the special needs community. Both of my children have autism, which means both of my children thrive only because of therapy, schedules, and yes, ongoing daily education.
The idea of that being taken away—and the possible backslide we’d see because of it—would bring any mother to their knees.
Before my children were born, I decided I would be a stay-at-home mom. But as my daughter and son revealed their extra needs, I instinctively knew what they would require to thrive was beyond my bandwidth.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and educators are the mighty among that. I hung up my hat as a stay-at-home mom and outsourced my children’s needs to people more capable than myself.
To say this was a humbling move—knowing others were more equipped to care for my children than myself—would be accurate.
To say it was the best move for my family would also be correct. The progress we’ve seen has been incredible.
Now, here we are with COVID-19, living in unprecedented times.
As I scroll through social media, I see other mothers preparing for battle: Bringing out crafts, and chalk, and making lesson plans with smiles on their faces. And here I am, frightened and—if I’m being completely honest—angry.
Why? Because special needs children require more than online learning.
How will we function without PT gyms, feeding sessions or speech therapists? How will we give them everything they need while still under quarantine?
Well, here’s a few things I know for sure about special needs parenting:
Special needs mothers are made of steel. We bend, we do not break.
We are well versed in unexpected news.
If your child has a diagnosis, you know what it’s like to live in the “after”—that period of time where things were coasting by, and then chaotic. And because of this, you have a leg up on the rest of the population. You know the secret to survival is to just continue to show up for our children. Even as ill-experienced and unequipped as we feel, we show up and learn right along with them: Circumstances change.
Remember those periods of no progress, when it felt like every milestone was out of reach? Remember how awesome it was when your child finally inched toward that goal? It happened on their time, and this situation is no different.
We’re in a holding pattern, but we’ve been here before. We can withstand the stagnation because we know circumstances change, and if we’re lucky, so do we. There’s value in the valleys just as much as the peaks.
I don’t know when our children will return to school, or when our therapy centers will open again—and if I focus too much on the unknown, panic takes over my parenting. But equally as contagious as a virus is hope. I’ve held onto it through every appointment and evaluation, and I’m certainly clinging tight now.
Our children may have lost valued members of their village right now, but they haven’t lost their leader. Mom: Their most trusted witness, the woman who knows every haircut and lost tooth.
We’ve been in the pit of anger, confusion and frustration before, and we still found our way out. Because if there’s anything else I know for sure it’s that each day, as you navigate the unknown, it gets easier.
We may not feel as equipped or enthusiastic as some, but we are their mothers.
And right now, those are the only credentials we need.
Stephanie Hanrahan was just your seemingly average housewife until she grew tired of pretending and took an axe to her white picket fence (also known as making her private journal public). Learn how she traded her pretending for a panty liner on Instagram, Facebook, and her blog Tinkles Her Pants, where she chronicles her journey as wife to a husband with chronic illness, mother to special needs kiddos, and a woman who often unravels then finds her footing again.
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Hanrahan.