So God Made a Mother Collection ➔

When you have a child with special needs, it is very easy to just focus on the challenges. Everyday life is harder for parents of kids who are unique and complicated. On the really dark days, it is very hard to see the silver lining. But raising a neuroatypical child has made my life richer in several significant ways and I am grateful for them. 

1. Sensory kids see the world differently from their neurotypical parents and peers.

Sensory kids are so highly or loosely tuned that their bodies absorb and use information that neurotypical kids do not observe and receive. If you read biographies of famous actors, musicians, and artists, it becomes abundantly clear that they were experts in their fields because of undiagnosed sensory issues. Often labeled as “quirky” or “eccentric”, these people were left to create masterworks.

My daughter’s unique wiring results in hypersensitive vision. She can spot an ant on the ground from a room away. This vision also helps her see the tiniest details in a piece of art or a picture. She will pull me in to point out something incredible that changes my entire view of what we are looking at. Without her incredible vision, I would miss the minute visual cues that make the world a more beautiful place. 

My daughter’s unique wiring has also gifted her with a photographic memory. Besides the obvious bonus of never having to remember where I leave anything when she is around, it has many other benefits. Her incredible memory stores every aspect of life, so we never miss out on anything. It means that she gets excited about where we are going before we even get near the parking lot because she remembers what the street looks like from the last time we visited. It means that she is so aware of what is going on around her that she makes me stop what I am doing to be present. There are times when I am rushing and she forces me to slow down and look. Moments of beauty happen when you slow down and look.

2. Having a child with SPD has helped me learn how to say no.

Prior to the birth of my daughter, I was a “yes” girl. I said those three letters to everything that came my way, afraid that I would be left behind if I said no. I was often overworked and stressed out because I did not leave room for downtime in my schedule.

It doesn’t take long for a sensory parent to realize that type of schedule is not going to work for your child. Sensory kids need a lot of rest, a lot of time to regulate and a predictable routine. They need their parents to learn how to say no so their bodies can function. We now very carefully select what we say yes to. We weigh what our options are and then choose the one activity that best suits our family’s needs. And then, when it happens, we enjoy it. Every minute of it is special and cherished because we have carefully chosen it and are prepared to be successful. The rest of the family is now also better rested and balanced because by creating a life that helps the child we love, we have also put in place restorative practices for ourselves.

3. I am fully confident she will achieve her goals in life.

In her mere five years on Earth, my child has been to 11 different types of providers. We could be the “Angie’s List” for health professionals in our region because we have seen them all. Every achievement has been a hard fought battle. The result? Out of this struggle has developed one of the most focused, determined human beings I have ever met. I have no doubt she will succeed in life. Her struggles form the basis of her strength. We have given her the tools to do so, and she is learning more every day how to adjust and advocate for her unique needs. Sensory Processing Disorder has made her mighty.

4. Parents of children with disabilities make the best friends.

When you have a child whose disability is not visible on the surface, you are constantly peppered with questions. People can’t believe that all you go through is true. They frequently say, “Oh, but I think all kids at that age do ________.” Meanwhile, you know that if their child did what your child does, they would be just as frantic as you are right now.

Other parents of special needs kids don’t ask questions. They get the frustrations and constant monitoring that comes with having a child with unique needs. You never have to apologize for canceling, leaving early or bringing your own food (although out of habit, you will) because they get it.

Quick to offer opinions on providers and only offer suggestions when asked, parents of atypical children understand the importance of a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen. They get what it is like to lay awake worrying about what comes next. They get what it is like to stand on the playground and cry because your 5-year-old finally can get on a swing by herself. Most of the time, they are standing next to you crying, too. Your child’s success is as tear-inducing as their own.

5. She has made me a better human.

My daughter feels every emotion in the most extreme fashion. The world is frequently scary and deafening, but it can also be beautiful. When she is excited or happy, her body vibrates. When she is scared or overstimulated, energy shoots through her body like needles and she feels physical pain. As her mother, I get to see the world through her eyes in a way that I can’t myself because I am neurotypical. It is incredible, and I have a full appreciation of why her little body tires out and falls apart so often after important events. Bodies are not meant to work at that elevated state for long extended periods of time.

Having a child with SPD has also made me stop judging other human beings. It has made me stop from shooting annoyed, judgmental looks at random strangers with squawking kids in the grocery store. It has made me more humble, open, and honest about our personal struggles. I no longer am afraid to ask for help. Asking for help is now a sign of strength. Understanding other views and appreciating people for who they are at this moment is now the focus of my life. I laugh a lot more, I cry a lot more and I now try to stop for a moment to think before I speak.

I encourage you to take a moment and press pause. Pour yourself a drink of your choice and ponder this question: what is great about having a family member or being a person with a disability? For one moment, let’s reframe the discussion around our children, our loved ones, and ourselves. What good has come from our difficult journeys that couldn’t have happened if we hadn’t started down this path?

You might be surprised by what you find.

You may also like:

You Become the Advocate They Need When Raising a Child With Special Needs

To the Special Needs Mom Who Sits Alone

Becky Ferrigno

Becky Ferrigno is an author on a mission to write about children and adults who overcome adversity and live incredible lives. She spends her days teaching, researching and enjoy life with her husband and two children.

Summer Goes by Too Fast

In: Kids
Boy lying on bench at park, color photo

To my oldest, As our summer vacation nears an end and we begin school supply shopping, I think about all the things we didn’t get to do together this summer. I instantly feel mom guilt. All the plans I had made? Only half of them done—if that. RELATED: Remember When Summer Lasted Forever? All the books I was going to read to you at bedtime? Only a couple short ones. All the creative art we would do? Maybe just one time. The fact is, I let time slip away from me. I was too focused and anxiety-ridden about work, my...

Keep Reading

Going on Family Vacation with Young Kids is Work That’s Worth It

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mom with two young kids on airplane

Our routine will be a mess. Our toddler won’t sleep in a new environment. Our baby needs all of the gear. The flight could be a disaster. I went through a mental checklist of reasons why this kind of family vacation would be hard. It was a pretty convincing list if I’m being honest. I considered throwing a pity party dedicated to the concerns I shoulder as a mother. A few days later I felt a wave of conviction wash over me. I was dreading a trip that was meant to be a blessing to our family. Any kind of...

Keep Reading

I Want To Raise Good Sisters

In: Kids, Motherhood
Four girls sitting on a rock in the forest, color photo

My current dilemma: how to teach four little girls how to be good sisters when I have no idea what I’m doing? I was an only child growing up, and a tomboy at that. It was a lonely, quiet childhood. I remember wishing for a sister, but knowing that with my single mom, it wasn’t going to happen. So, the sister thing is a big mystery to me. I’ve noticed (admittedly with some envy) adult sisters together and their inside jokes, shared history, and language known only to each other. I’ve read about sisters in books. The relationships between the four...

Keep Reading

I Don’t Just Love You, I Like You

In: Kids, Motherhood
Young boy standing at bridge, color photo

My growing child, my heart often aches when I look at how big you have gotten. You aren’t a baby anymore, you’re a whole kid. You are your own person, with your own thoughts and feelings. You have your own friendships, and interests.  Parts of me realize you don’t need me the same, but deep down I know you need me all the same. And I’m realizing, that in all of these changes, my love for you is also a like.  RELATED: Being Your Mom is the Greatest Honor of My Life Because now we can connect in a whole...

Keep Reading

Dear Kindergartner, I’ll Always Remember You This Way

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and child touch foreheads

The first magical flickers of your strong heartbeat on a black and white screen— the reassuring evidence I needed to know you were gaining strength for this world. My belly grew, and I proudly went shopping for maternity clothes to cover it. I felt the first dances of your little feet, and it reminded me of butterflies taking flight— the movement of a true miracle. I’ll always remember you this way. The sounds of your first cries—music ringing in my ears. You were real, Earth-side, and wanting only to be loved. The softness of your skin, the way you smelled,...

Keep Reading

Having the Tools To Parent a Child with Sensory Processing Disorder Changes Everything

In: Kids, Motherhood
Child playing with water in tube

My heart leaped into my mouth as Soccer Mom, with her matching foldable chairs and ice-cold Gatorade, glared at me. I wanted to explain how hard I tried to be a good mom, to raise a kind human, but I swallowed the words so I could vomit them at my 5-year-old son on the ride home.   Didn’t he know that pushing another child was unacceptable? Hadn’t I taught him to use gentle hands?   RELATED: To the Special Needs Mom Who Sits Alone Despite implementing the parenting books that promised me a new kid by the week’s end, I often wondered...

Keep Reading

There’s No Instruction Manual for These Middle Years

In: Kids
Little girl smiling on porch

As a preschool teacher and a mom, I’ve always felt pretty confident in my parenting from ages birth to 5 years old.  I by no means am perfect, and I silently rejoiced the day my kids could pour their own cereal and turn on Netflix for themselves while I caught some extra sleep. Even though that’s probably not a proud mama moment to celebrate, it’s just the reality of parenting.  We both celebrate and mourn independence as our children need us less. And let’s be honest, oftentimes independence makes our daily lives easier. Yet it is bittersweet.  It feels like...

Keep Reading

I’m Halfway Through Raising Little Kids

In: Kids, Motherhood
Two girls smiling outside

Today I stayed in my car a few minutes more than usual as my kids hopped out onto the hot driveway and ran inside. The cold air conditioning felt amazing after a long day at the local water park; so did the silence. Then it felt odd, so I turned on the radio. The song that started playing hit my soul: “Woah, we’re halfway there/Woah, livin’ on a prayer.” I’m always living on a prayer, but I also noticed we are halfway there. RELATED: Growing Up, You First Then Me Halfway through the year, more than halfway through summer, and...

Keep Reading

Kindergarten is the Start of Letting You Go

In: Kids, Motherhood

We’re physically ready for kindergarten. We’ve got the backpack, the school supplies, the school clothes, and the new shoes. We’ve talked about it all summer. We’ve practiced the skills he will need, and how to open everything inside of a cold lunch box. We’ve talked positively about it and imagined all the friends he will meet and the places he will go, and how kind and caring the teacher will be. We’re physically ready for kindergarten. But here’s a little secret . . . My heart? My heart can’t fully be ready for him to go to kindergarten. I know...

Keep Reading

The Truth about Puddle Jumpers and Toddler Drowning, From a Grieving Mom

In: Kids
Little boy in Puddle Jumper on waterslide

The very last video I have of my 3-year-old son, Levi, is of him bobbing up and down in a Puddle Jumper.  His little legs kicking underwater, his eyes the spitting image of his daddy, and his older sisters, his happy grin, and his little voice saying “Cheese!” This time-stamped video, counting down the precious minutes we had left until he would end up in this very same pool, less than two hours later.  But this time, it was without the Puddle Jumper. I understand the sense of panic building inside you to avoid my story or read it just...

Keep Reading