The Lonely Battle of Special Needs

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Mike Berry for a summer series highlighting great writers who focus on disability, adoption, and parenting. 

the lonely battle of special needs parenting

Defeated. Frustrated. Lonely. Tired. Done.

Like a spin-cycle set on the top speed, those words flashed through my mind all at once. The other kids on the team had accepted the position the coach assigned to them. Joey grinned as he trotted to first base. It wasn’t his ideal position, and certainly not his favorite, but he accepted it because that’s what normal kids do. Same with Trent. He was small for his age and catcher really wasn’t the best position, especially since he couldn’t throw the ball past the pitchers mound, but he complied all the same.

Then there was my son, who stood in center field, stomping his feet, throwing his glove and refusing to play, in his words, ‘that stupid position.’ He wanted to play shortstop. He thought he deserved to be at shortstop. The game nearly had to be delayed while I coaxed threatened him until he trudged to center field.

The assistant coach stared at me with a haughty, judgmental look in his eye. I could hear his nonverbal words echo in my mind. “What’s wrong with your kid? Why can’t you get control of him?” Or worse, “He’s just a kid. Why are you so harsh?”

I fought the urge to say something, explain his behavior away, or make excuses. Really though, what was I going to say? “You see he was adopted through foster care and………..” no that wouldn’t work. “His birth mother drank alcohol when she was pregnant with him and…….” no, not that one either. “You see, it’s tough to raise a child with special needs because……” nope, just more judgement if I said that!

It was a day I’ll never forget because, although there were a hundred or so parents and siblings gathered for the game, I had never felt more alone.

Been There, Done That.

If you’re raising a child with special needs you probably identify with that scenario. If your child suffers from ARND (Alcohol-Related-Nuerodevelopmental-Disorder) traditionally known as fetal alcohol syndrome, like my son does, you especially identify. You might even say, “Yep..been there, done that!” You understand the defeat of trying to get your child to cooperate in the middle of a tantrum. You’ve experienced the utter defeat of being in a public place while your child acts out, throws a tantrum, screams obscenities, or destroys personal property.

Perhaps you’re fostering a child who suffers from ARND. Maybe you’ve begun regretting an adoption because your son or daughter acts out like mine did on that baseball diamond, and you’ve felt the weight of judgmental eyes on you. You may even find it difficult to face another day because your strength is gone and you’re ready to quit!

We’re right there in the trenches with you. We understand completely and we want you to know something.

Not Alone, No Matter What!

You are not alone. Regardless of your child’s story, the embarrassment you’ve walked through in your neighborhood, the painful moments of trying to explain your child’s behavior, or the awful parent you think you are for wanting to quit, you are not alone. No matter what, we are standing by you because we’ve been there too.

We’ve had teachers tell us that we “just need to parent with more structure!” We’ve stood helplessly on the side of the road while a police officer arrogantly asks, “Well can’t you control your son? He seems like just an innocent little guy to me!” We’ve had case managers make judgement calls on our family because they failed to understand the severity of fetal alcohol syndrome, extreme trauma, or the reality of special needs.

We understand every tear that drips from your eyes. We know what it’s like to want to quit, be at the end of your rope, or think thoughts you never thought you would think when you became a parent. Raising children with autism, brain damage, fetal alcohol syndrome, down syndrome, severe trauma, reactive attachment disorder and many others, is an unending battle. It’s a battle with your child, for your child, with your school, with professionals, with neighbors, and sometimes even with close friends and family.

There’s a way to find strength, even when you feel too weak to go on!

The Strength You Need.

Sometimes all the strength you need to face another day, is in finding out you’re not alone. There’s incredible healing power in discovering this truth. In fact, it can be more powerful than any seminar, book, or podcast could provide. We’ve found this strength. It’s precisely why we believe so heavily in support communities and leaning on others who are going through the same trials in raising children with special needs.

It’s why we started our blog, Confessions Of A Parent. We know how defeating it can be to parent children with special needs. But we also know the hope you have because we’ve found it. The question is, do you believe that you have hope?

There’s hope in “together.” There’s hope when you realize that others are limping along with the same wounds you have. Find strength in the simple truth that you are not alone.


Mike Berry is an author, blogger, speaker, adoptive father, and former foster parent. He is the co-creator of the parenting blog, which is read by 20,000 people, in 15 different countries, monthly. In 2014 he authored the eBook, 7 Hills Every Parent Should Die On, and Your Ridiculously Amazing Year: 15 Ways To Make 2015 Your Familys Best Year Ever! Both are available as free downloads on the blog. Together with his wife, Kristin, they created the adoption eBook and video series The Adoptive Parent Toolbox in 2015. The toolbox contains real life perspectives on the adoption journey. It covers topics like planning and preparing, relating the birth parents, dealing with trauma, building a strong support system, how to share your
child’s information, proper adoption lingo and more. Mike and Kristin have been married for 16 years and they have 8 children, all of whom are adopted. They reside just outside of Indianapolis, IN.

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