Do you know how exhausting special needs parenting is?

Something that I think people often underestimate about special needs parenting, is just how completely exhausting it is.

I can personally attest to how exhausting it is.

In fact, I’m exhausted right now.

Special needs parenting is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, for one’s entire lifetime. It’s all hours of the day and night.

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Personally, I don’t even remember the last night of uninterrupted sleep I had in our house.

Very few things come easy and most things are in fact, a constant struggle.  Whether it’s potty training or just trying to get a sensory sensitive child to eat, there’s always something that needs your complete and undivided attention.

Everything in your life takes a back burner to whatever the current crisis is.  I spend most of my time running around putting out fires.

Don’t even get me started on school.

When your a special needs parent, school can be an absolute nightmare.

If you have a special needs child, you will likely have to fight, not only for your child’s rights but for the services and therapies they require and deserve, in order to learn.

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Some families are lucky and have a really good school system but sadly that’s not the case for a great many others.

Even if you have services in place, bullying is a huge issue that’s very hard to address and is all to prevalent in the lives of our special needs children.

Things that most families take for granted, like their kids making friends, being able to express themselves or for that matter even talking, are things that many special needs parents must live without.

Can you imagine if your child was unable to tell you about what happened at school?

Perhaps they don’t feel well or are scared but have no way to let you know what’s going on?

Many special needs parents don’t have to imagine this because they live with these situations, each and every day.

Special needs parents are constantly on alert, even in the middle of the night.  Living a life of hypervigilance is absolutely exhausting, stressful and impacts every aspect of one’s life.

Trying to live in the moment can be difficult because so many are terrified about what the future holds for the child they love and that can be all consuming.

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I could literally go on and on because there are so many reasons that special needs parenting is exhausting.  Perhaps one of the most exhausting parts of special needs parenting is that fact that the world doesn’t slow down.

Not only do special needs parents have to worry about these and many other things, they also have to worry about the same things that everyone else in the world has to.

There’s no way around the fact that special needs parenting is exhausting.  Having said that, it should also be known that special needs parenting is also very rewarding as well.

My goal with this article is to show just a few of the reasons that special needs parenting is, or at least can be exhausting.

Something else to help put things into perspective is this.  There are studies that show that the stress level experienced by Autism Moms is most closely related to that of active duty combat soldiers.

Hopefully,  this gives you a better understanding of what it’s like to be a special needs parent.  This is just one aspect of special needs parenting but it’s an important one.




50 Comments

    1. Themselves

      Braden the topic is a very real daily thing for us parents of Autisitc children. You sound to me like you have no clue about it at all so if you don’t mind just refrain from posting here.

      1. Kim Gebhardt

        I don’t have special needs children either, and I thought one of Rob’s missions was to hopefully educate people like me (and Braden) about the lives of those who do, yet you come along and tell another reader to stop posting here? Why would you do that?

        1. Mo

          Because you are wringing your hands and praising him. I know less about autism and special needs than I did before this blog. But man did I learn some new excuses when I don’t like the card life delt me. Posts about meds and the shots and things like that are interesting. Posts about how he just can’t do something are not helpful.

        2. This issue is that some people are not really bringing anything positive to the table. No one has to agree or share the same views but I don’t know if why they continue to come and just to critique what I’m doing or other readers comments without any first hand knowledge.

          I allow this to continue because it creates discussion but it’s not really a productive conversation.

    1. Themselves

      Braden the topic is a very real daily thing for us parents of Autisitc children. You sound to me like you have no clue about it at all so if you don’t mind just refrain from posting here.

      1. Kim Gebhardt

        I don’t have special needs children either, and I thought one of Rob’s missions was to hopefully educate people like me (and Braden) about the lives of those who do, yet you come along and tell another reader to stop posting here? Why would you do that?

        1. Mo

          Because you are wringing your hands and praising him. I know less about autism and special needs than I did before this blog. But man did I learn some new excuses when I don’t like the card life delt me. Posts about meds and the shots and things like that are interesting. Posts about how he just can’t do something are not helpful.

        2. This issue is that some people are not really bringing anything positive to the table. No one has to agree or share the same views but I don’t know if why they continue to come and just to critique what I’m doing or other readers comments without any first hand knowledge.

          I allow this to continue because it creates discussion but it’s not really a productive conversation.

  1. Braden

    So are you trying to preach to the choir or educate the masses?

    Either way, you tend to minimize other parents with your writing style. So I was trying to let you know that all parenting is hard…and we all struggle.

    1. There’s no denying that parenting is tough. That said, try special needs parenting and you will likely be grateful for the challenges you face.

      I wasn’t making a comparison in the post because everything is relative.

      You’ve come to a special needs parenting blog and are complaint that I’m talking about special needs parenting.

      I never said anything in this post that should be taken the way you’ve taken things. It’s like you are here just to be critical.

      Good day

      1. Braden

        I could actually argue the same about the challenges I face…with that said, I was merely bringing up a point that all parenting is hard.

        But it’s become painfully obvious you don’t want any real discussion here..

        1. This is a special needs parenting blog. You keep trying to make comparisons and bring nothing to the table.

          I’m all about discussing things but frankly it feels like you’re simply trolling. Please continue because you’re bringing traffic here but don’t expect me to take anything you say seriously, unless you stay on topic quit trying to compare apples and oranges..

  2. Braden

    So are you trying to preach to the choir or educate the masses?

    Either way, you tend to minimize other parents with your writing style. So I was trying to let you know that all parenting is hard…and we all struggle.

    1. There’s no denying that parenting is tough. That said, try special needs parenting and you will likely be grateful for the challenges you face.

      I wasn’t making a comparison in the post because everything is relative.

      You’ve come to a special needs parenting blog and are complaint that I’m talking about special needs parenting.

      I never said anything in this post that should be taken the way you’ve taken things. It’s like you are here just to be critical.

      Good day

      1. Braden

        I could actually argue the same about the challenges I face…with that said, I was merely bringing up a point that all parenting is hard.

        But it’s become painfully obvious you don’t want any real discussion here..

        1. This is a special needs parenting blog. You keep trying to make comparisons and bring nothing to the table.

          I’m all about discussing things but frankly it feels like you’re simply trolling. Please continue because you’re bringing traffic here but don’t expect me to take anything you say seriously, unless you stay on topic quit trying to compare apples and oranges..

  3. Kim Williams

    I have seven children. I have done time as a single parent. I have a son with special needs (autism and other health issues) and he is 22 years old. I feel qualified to compare “regular” parenting with “special needs” parenting. Also “single” parenting. What Rob does is “single special needs in triplicate” parenting. This is a whole new dimension of parenting, a COMPLETELY different plane of existence, and something no one should attempt to pass judgment on if they haven’t done it.

    I don’t feel Rob discounted “regular” parents at all in anything he said. All parenting has tough moments/days/weeks even. The parenting Rob does is the type that can break a person, no matter how strong they are. It’s what some parents (frequently fathers) walk away from. It is more than most people will ever need to experience and while he realizes that, clearly he hopes folks will be able to have some level of understanding for just how difficult this is on a daily and never ending basis.

    To attack the blog this way is similar to going on the blog of a parent who is dealing with their child fighting a childhood cancer and complaining that they are minimizing how tough it is when your child has a stomach virus. No one is saying that’s easy, but that blog is the wrong place to whine about it. Chemo trumps flu. Life as a single father of three boys with special needs of every variety trumps regular parenting of any sort. Period. Just my four cents worth. Peace, Rob. You da man <3

  4. Kim Williams

    I have seven children. I have done time as a single parent. I have a son with special needs (autism and other health issues) and he is 22 years old. I feel qualified to compare “regular” parenting with “special needs” parenting. Also “single” parenting. What Rob does is “single special needs in triplicate” parenting. This is a whole new dimension of parenting, a COMPLETELY different plane of existence, and something no one should attempt to pass judgment on if they haven’t done it.

    I don’t feel Rob discounted “regular” parents at all in anything he said. All parenting has tough moments/days/weeks even. The parenting Rob does is the type that can break a person, no matter how strong they are. It’s what some parents (frequently fathers) walk away from. It is more than most people will ever need to experience and while he realizes that, clearly he hopes folks will be able to have some level of understanding for just how difficult this is on a daily and never ending basis.

    To attack the blog this way is similar to going on the blog of a parent who is dealing with their child fighting a childhood cancer and complaining that they are minimizing how tough it is when your child has a stomach virus. No one is saying that’s easy, but that blog is the wrong place to whine about it. Chemo trumps flu. Life as a single father of three boys with special needs of every variety trumps regular parenting of any sort. Period. Just my four cents worth. Peace, Rob. You da man <3

  5. Jeanette Lin

    Hello! I’m a widow mom of three son’s. My oldest is a 23 year old autistic son who recently is developing violent behaviors. I’ve never had this issue with him before in his life until now. He’s always been a very calmed, and a focused child. He used to wash the dishes perfectly, now he’s so sloppy and unfocused. He’s not sleeping much at night. He seems confused and stressed but he’s non-verbal and can’t tell me what’s going on with him. He’s already hit 3 adults on his program already. Now I’m keeping him home until his psycologist appointment in a few days. I hope they can help me on this stressful situation for me. Does anyone been thru this before and know what it is and what to do?
    Worried Mom.

    1. I’m so sorry. This sounds very much like my oldest. While mine is verbal, his expressive language skills are severely compromised.

      Sudden violent behaviors can mean a lot of things. My youngest was nonverbal/preverbal until a few years ago. He had violent outbursts when he was in pain or not feeling well.

      My oldest is also diagnosed with bipolar disorder as well. Typically he’s pretty well organized and can focus on a specific task.

      When he slips into a manic phase, he becomes very disorganized and sloppy, as you put it.

      It’s funny you mentioned the dishes because that’s Gavin’s big thing. He likes doing the dishes and usually does a really good job.

      He’s currently dealing with mania and I’ve noticed that the dishes are being cleaned the way he normally does and there’s water all over the floor. His room will also become very chaotic.

      Getting your son into the doctor is a really good move. I’m certainly not saying he’s bipolar. I’m just relating my experience with my oldest and what you are describing sounds familiar to me.

      Everyone’s different and with him being given nonverbal, I can only imagine how difficult it is for you to try and figure out how to help him.

      Always ensure your safety and his.

      Does the staff have any insight? Could something have happened that has him upset? I have friends with nonverbal children and I’m aware of the difficulty in trying to figure out problems like this.

      Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help. If you need to talk, I’m available via Skype or phone for my readers, just use the contact page above to reach out. If nothing else, I can be an understanding friend. .

      Best of luck and please let me know how things go….

        1. My son has always been diagnosed by a psychiatrist.. With special kids, it’s really hard to uncover some of these secondary issues.

          I have a whole team of doctors for Gavin simply because hes so complex.

          Hang in there and remember that I’m always here… ☺

  6. Jeanette Lin

    Hello! I’m a widow mom of three son’s. My oldest is a 23 year old autistic son who recently is developing violent behaviors. I’ve never had this issue with him before in his life until now. He’s always been a very calmed, and a focused child. He used to wash the dishes perfectly, now he’s so sloppy and unfocused. He’s not sleeping much at night. He seems confused and stressed but he’s non-verbal and can’t tell me what’s going on with him. He’s already hit 3 adults on his program already. Now I’m keeping him home until his psycologist appointment in a few days. I hope they can help me on this stressful situation for me. Does anyone been thru this before and know what it is and what to do?
    Worried Mom.

    1. I’m so sorry. This sounds very much like my oldest. While mine is verbal, his expressive language skills are severely compromised.

      Sudden violent behaviors can mean a lot of things. My youngest was nonverbal/preverbal until a few years ago. He had violent outbursts when he was in pain or not feeling well.

      My oldest is also diagnosed with bipolar disorder as well. Typically he’s pretty well organized and can focus on a specific task.

      When he slips into a manic phase, he becomes very disorganized and sloppy, as you put it.

      It’s funny you mentioned the dishes because that’s Gavin’s big thing. He likes doing the dishes and usually does a really good job.

      He’s currently dealing with mania and I’ve noticed that the dishes are being cleaned the way he normally does and there’s water all over the floor. His room will also become very chaotic.

      Getting your son into the doctor is a really good move. I’m certainly not saying he’s bipolar. I’m just relating my experience with my oldest and what you are describing sounds familiar to me.

      Everyone’s different and with him being given nonverbal, I can only imagine how difficult it is for you to try and figure out how to help him.

      Always ensure your safety and his.

      Does the staff have any insight? Could something have happened that has him upset? I have friends with nonverbal children and I’m aware of the difficulty in trying to figure out problems like this.

      Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help. If you need to talk, I’m available via Skype or phone for my readers, just use the contact page above to reach out. If nothing else, I can be an understanding friend. .

      Best of luck and please let me know how things go….

        1. My son has always been diagnosed by a psychiatrist.. With special kids, it’s really hard to uncover some of these secondary issues.

          I have a whole team of doctors for Gavin simply because hes so complex.

          Hang in there and remember that I’m always here… ☺

  7. Donna Leclair

    Hi, I am new here and I totally agree that any form of parenting is or can be tough but special needs parenting is every minute with a lot of judgement by others ….. while it is very exhausting at all times add also having to not only fight for services, advocating for your child, but also having to fight your child every single step of the way when there is SEVER OPPOSITIONAL DEFIANCE DISORDER, I am a single parent of a child whom is now 15 years old and he has complex disorder, adding his teenage hormones to it, it is totally out of control at the moment, there are hardly any services, there is always a catch to everything, and his has recently become violent to me, destroying every thing in our place, and hitting me, freaking out, etc….. not occasionally, but pretty close to daily and main times a day. it is unhealthy for him, for me, and actually terrifying what the future will hold for him and myself, at this point I don’t know where to turn too, have asked for help but of course always excuses of why no service, the usually are not enough funding, or there is no services here in English (we live in quebec – he does not understand French), there is no place to deal with a child with life and death illnesses, and cognitive issues, and of course sever behaviour issues, there might be a place for a child with one of those thing but not a place for someone with all of those things, and add the language barrier of English and French, my hat is off the parents that are actual parents, and to any parent that is an active parent to a child or children with special needs, there is no sleep ever, hardly time to actually take a shower, depending on the childs moods, behaviours, always have to be ready to run at the drop of a hat etc…. and if you actually can try and sleep keep one eye open, I love my son and would do anything to help him, I just don’t know how much more I can take with out help, so when people tell you they have a special needs child/ren, take them seriously and realize they are not trying to complain only trying to state actual facts of what is. hug your kids, love them for whom they are and realize at any time if things seem to be going ok or good it can turn and when you can not spot triggers, how do you know how to help them stop and control it issues, all my best to everyone and take care, xoxo

      1. Donna Leclair

        thank you, having a voice for others in the same boat (sort of speak), Is very helpful, so others that feel alone realize that they are not truly alone, I know in a time of crisis it does feel like there is no one else there, nor does it feel like anyone understands, I statement for people in crisis with their child/ren with special needs or even without special needs is just try and take one minute at a time and put one foot in front of the other. it is very scary, exhausting, and we don’t always feel like there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I know, this week, has been very hard as has other days and weeks but this week I even contemplated two different unthinkable thought, thankfully, I wiped my tears and told myself I am stronger then that, and that he needs me to be stronger then ever, it is not a solution of course but it did manage to get me through, that night, one step at a time and one minute at a time. I truly wish everyone the best and hope the best for everyone. hugs to all, xoxo

        1. I’m really glad you were able to wipe those thoughts away. Frankly, it’s normal to have thoughts when under this much stress, it’s what you do that matters. Thoughts aren’t something we can really control but our actions are.

          If you ever need to talk, hit me up… I’m always here…☺

          Thanks for sharing…

          1. Donna Leclair

            thank you, and the same offer goes out to you and anyone else that might need a shoulder, an ear, or just someone to push them to the better area in their lives or moments. Just so you know, I have never had thoughts like that before, and I have been through hell and back many times, but this was the first time really that I had those thought, I am not minimizing those thoughts, it scared me to think like that, but it is what it is, and I always try and face what I have to face and then take the action that I need to make the decision happen, I know those were not acceptable thoughts and I had to find my strength and move forward. I hope in the future, near and far that I will still be able to keep the proper thoughts going and remove the negative thoughts, during crisis moments, or episodes it is very hard to think clearly but we all much try to keep going for the ones that need us. all my best and take care, xoxo

  8. Donna Leclair

    Hi, I am new here and I totally agree that any form of parenting is or can be tough but special needs parenting is every minute with a lot of judgement by others ….. while it is very exhausting at all times add also having to not only fight for services, advocating for your child, but also having to fight your child every single step of the way when there is SEVER OPPOSITIONAL DEFIANCE DISORDER, I am a single parent of a child whom is now 15 years old and he has complex disorder, adding his teenage hormones to it, it is totally out of control at the moment, there are hardly any services, there is always a catch to everything, and his has recently become violent to me, destroying every thing in our place, and hitting me, freaking out, etc….. not occasionally, but pretty close to daily and main times a day. it is unhealthy for him, for me, and actually terrifying what the future will hold for him and myself, at this point I don’t know where to turn too, have asked for help but of course always excuses of why no service, the usually are not enough funding, or there is no services here in English (we live in quebec – he does not understand French), there is no place to deal with a child with life and death illnesses, and cognitive issues, and of course sever behaviour issues, there might be a place for a child with one of those thing but not a place for someone with all of those things, and add the language barrier of English and French, my hat is off the parents that are actual parents, and to any parent that is an active parent to a child or children with special needs, there is no sleep ever, hardly time to actually take a shower, depending on the childs moods, behaviours, always have to be ready to run at the drop of a hat etc…. and if you actually can try and sleep keep one eye open, I love my son and would do anything to help him, I just don’t know how much more I can take with out help, so when people tell you they have a special needs child/ren, take them seriously and realize they are not trying to complain only trying to state actual facts of what is. hug your kids, love them for whom they are and realize at any time if things seem to be going ok or good it can turn and when you can not spot triggers, how do you know how to help them stop and control it issues, all my best to everyone and take care, xoxo

      1. Donna Leclair

        thank you, having a voice for others in the same boat (sort of speak), Is very helpful, so others that feel alone realize that they are not truly alone, I know in a time of crisis it does feel like there is no one else there, nor does it feel like anyone understands, I statement for people in crisis with their child/ren with special needs or even without special needs is just try and take one minute at a time and put one foot in front of the other. it is very scary, exhausting, and we don’t always feel like there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I know, this week, has been very hard as has other days and weeks but this week I even contemplated two different unthinkable thought, thankfully, I wiped my tears and told myself I am stronger then that, and that he needs me to be stronger then ever, it is not a solution of course but it did manage to get me through, that night, one step at a time and one minute at a time. I truly wish everyone the best and hope the best for everyone. hugs to all, xoxo

        1. I’m really glad you were able to wipe those thoughts away. Frankly, it’s normal to have thoughts when under this much stress, it’s what you do that matters. Thoughts aren’t something we can really control but our actions are.

          If you ever need to talk, hit me up… I’m always here…☺

          Thanks for sharing…

          1. Donna Leclair

            thank you, and the same offer goes out to you and anyone else that might need a shoulder, an ear, or just someone to push them to the better area in their lives or moments. Just so you know, I have never had thoughts like that before, and I have been through hell and back many times, but this was the first time really that I had those thought, I am not minimizing those thoughts, it scared me to think like that, but it is what it is, and I always try and face what I have to face and then take the action that I need to make the decision happen, I know those were not acceptable thoughts and I had to find my strength and move forward. I hope in the future, near and far that I will still be able to keep the proper thoughts going and remove the negative thoughts, during crisis moments, or episodes it is very hard to think clearly but we all much try to keep going for the ones that need us. all my best and take care, xoxo

          2. Donna Leclair

            thank you, and the same offer goes out to you and anyone else that might need a shoulder, an ear, or just someone to push them to the better area in their lives or moments. Just so you know, I have never had thoughts like that before, and I have been through hell and back many times, but this was the first time really that I had those thought, I am not minimizing those thoughts, it scared me to think like that, but it is what it is, and I always try and face what I have to face and then take the action that I need to make the decision happen, I know those were not acceptable thoughts and I had to find my strength and move forward. I hope in the future, near and far that I will still be able to keep the proper thoughts going and remove the negative thoughts, during crisis moments, or episodes it is very hard to think clearly but we all much try to keep going for the ones that need us. all my best and take care, xoxo

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