What you don’t know about special needs parenting but probably should

This post has a very special purpose. It focuses solely on the challenges of being special needs parent. As special needs parents, we all know that the challenges are well worth it and there are many positive as well but the goal here is to help the rest of the world better understand what we go through as parents. 

One of the toughest parts of being a special needs parent is trying to get others to understand even a small percentage of what daily life is like for families with special needs children.



It doesn’t matter if it’s Autism, Downs Syndrome, ADHD, SPD or anything else. As a parent, your life is impacted in ways most can’t even begin to understand.

There’s no such thing as a level playing field when it comes to special needs families.


The world is largely unforgiving and doesn’t care how on some days, it’s literally just a struggle to survive. No one cares that you haven’t slept in days or that your child requires you 24/7/365.



There’s no holiday‘s or breaks. In fact, in many cases, the special needs parent will be doing this until the day they die. They will also spend everyday of their lives worrying about the day they will no longer be on this Earth to care for their child with special needs.

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Everything that comes easy to most is a constant struggle for families with special needs children.

It sometimes takes an hour just to get shoes and socks on my youngest and I’ve given up on requiring him to wear clothes while he’s home.

I have to prepare three different meals for each meal of the day because each one of my kids have sensory issues that make it exceptionally challenging to feed them. They of course, don’t share the same challenges and food proclivities, so I have to treat each individually. The kicker is that I will often have to remake what I made because something was wrong with it. 

Before you tell me that they’ll eat when they’re hungry, let me ask you this. How hungry would you have to be before your would eat the treats your cat leaves in the litter box?  Sounds dramatic but that’s how offensive kids with sensory issues can find their food. They will quite literally starve before eating something they find sensory offensive.

Don’t even get me started on school. Between bullying, IEP’s and ill equipped schools, everything is a battle.

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There are no slow lanes in life and regardless of the challenges being faced by special needs families, we still have to play by the exact same rules as everyone else.

We still have the same responsibilities as everyone else. No one cares that you might already be drowning in the overwhelming challenges of day to day life or that your child was hospitalized once again due to their fragile health. There are still bills to pay and jobs to do.

As someone who has experienced this every single day of his life, for the last 15 years, I can tell you that it takes its toll.

It impacts every single aspect of my life. It affects everything from your personal health to your relationships with family and friends. I don’t know how to make that any clearer.

So I thought I would toss each one of you the mic and ask that you share some of the challenges you face in your special needs parenting life. Maybe something that you wish people would better understand.

Leave your thoughts in the comments below or in the comments on this same post on The Autism Dad Facebook page.

Together, perhaps we can help the people in our lives to better understand…

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15 Comments on "What you don’t know about special needs parenting but probably should"

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I thought you said Gavin eats pretty much anything.

Guest
Guest

He’s gotten a lot better but it’s still a challenge

Guest
Guest

Compared to the other two he’s a breeze most of the time but compared to a typical child, it’s challenging

Guest
Guest

Fair enough, lots of the time kids will age out of food avoidance. I know I did.

Guest
Guest

I just wish every person who wanted to be a parent had to live with & take care of a “special needs” or “disabled” child for a month – while working (if they could), than to everyone would understand, but it only takes a few extraordinary people & the rest would give up – almost like I would like to do. People just won’t understand until they walk even a few feet in our shoes.

Guest
Guest
When I see those stories on the news.. Another mom drove her kids off a bridge… I don’t get angry and rant like most commenters. I cry and think.. That poor woman.. How many times did she try to help her little boy before everything just became too damn much and breathing became impossible. I think all of ‘us’ have seen that edge. How many times have ‘we’ waited a month for a doctors appointment that did nothing but tell us to wait another month to see another doctor.. And time ticks by.. With no help.. And you’re late on… Read more »
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Guest

But then again.. His little belly laugh is magical. So I’ll clean poo and make appointments .. And wait.. And question my own humanity for as long as it takes. And I’ll figure out how to make the rent somehow too. Might even bake some cupcakes.. Because, cupcakes.

Lisa Stetler Insana
Guest
My special needs kids are now grown but I haven’t forgotten the challenges. We have a couple who are friends who’s 9 year old son brings those memories glaringly back to life when we get together. Screaming out cuss words. Running around inappropriately touching someone repeatedly, crawling under the table at the restaurant. My kids are both ADHD. My oldest is also bipolar, mildly retarded and developmentally delayed. Both are pretty normally functional. Both lived their childhoods as is driven by a never ending motor. My oldest wasn’t so much hyper as he was impulsive. VERY impulsive. Once he became… Read more »
rjaffeux
Member
I think the biggest thing for me isn’t ONLY doing things that scare him it’s having to do them again and again. Things he hasn’t done in a month and scared him will scare him again. When he’s scared he’s mean. So he attacks people and the things that scare him are not always what you would expect… actually most of the time it’s things you wouldn’t expect so people outside our family feel we are babying him because and we need to ignore it. They also think we should punish him for his response but they don’t realize it… Read more »
Rob Gorski
Guest

Wow…. Thanks for sharing your amazing insight. Nothing but respect for you here.. ☺

Lisa Stetler Insana
Guest
My special needs kids are now grown but I haven’t forgotten the challenges. We have a couple who are friends who’s 9 year old son brings those memories glaringly back to life when we get together. Screaming out cuss words. Running around inappropriately touching someone repeatedly, crawling under the table at the restaurant. My kids are both ADHD. My oldest is also bipolar, mildly retarded and developmentally delayed. Both are pretty normally functional. Both lived their childhoods as is driven by a never ending motor. My oldest wasn’t so much hyper as he was impulsive. VERY impulsive. Once he became… Read more »
Rob Gorski
Guest

Wow…. Thanks for sharing your amazing insight. Nothing but respect for you here.. ☺

Lisa Stetler Insana
Guest
My special needs kids are now grown but I haven’t forgotten the challenges. We have a couple who are friends who’s 9 year old son brings those memories glaringly back to life when we get together. Screaming out cuss words. Running around inappropriately touching someone repeatedly, crawling under the table at the restaurant. My kids are both ADHD. My oldest is also bipolar, mildly retarded and developmentally delayed. Both are pretty normally functional. Both lived their childhoods as is driven by a never ending motor. My oldest wasn’t so much hyper as he was impulsive. VERY impulsive. Once he became… Read more »
Rob Gorski
Guest

Wow…. Thanks for sharing your amazing insight. Nothing but respect for you here.. ☺