Trish Shaeffer offers encouragement out of her personal experience of being at her wit's end and discovering she is made of the same tough stuff as every special needs parent.

Guest blogger Trish Shaeffer is at Different Dream with a post about what she’s learned since she first became a special needs parent.

The Truth About Being a Special Needs Parent

Being the parent of a child with special needs is an adventure. There are many ups and downs and many unknowns, so we experience many emotions all in one day. We endure stress that would break a normal person, and we do it with a loving heart.

Sure, we may not always endure with grace, and we may not have a lot of dignity left when the day is out. Our hair is messy. Our clothes are chosen for comfort, not for the latest fashions. We may go a day or two without a shower or a wink of sleep. We spend some days not knowing when we’ll have time to eat.

Our lives are always on the go.
Our gas tanks run on empty.
We ignore the little things and think of the big picture.

There are days when we wish we didn’t have to be so strong.
There are days when we wish we were not the person the teacher calls with a list of concerns.
There are days where we want to scream that we have had enough.

We can feel like we’ll never survive raising such special, yet complicated children.
We sometimes wish parenting our beautiful children didn’t present a complex range of problems without easy solutions.
We are very lonely at times–canceled play dates or get-togethers with friends, missed birthdays and family gatherings.

Parents of children with significant special needs, life-threatening conditions, or serious illnesses are forever altered, forever changed by endless medical tests, appointments with specialists, and meetings with therapists and teachers. We learn a lot on the fly and have more knowledge about our child than most medical doctors do. We go through and will continue to go through much for our children. Even if we are at our breaking point, we do it all for them.

No matter what we deal with or what we go through, we must make time for ourselves. We must force ourselves to reach out for support—from a friend or family member or even an online group.

Know that you can do this.
You are a great parent.
You matter.

When you have been strong for so long, know that it’s okay to have a good cry…or a glass of wine.

Keep on laughing through the hard parts.
Things will look up and you will survive.
We are special needs parents.
We are made of tough stuff.

Trish Shaeffer offers encouragement out of her personal experience of being at her wit's end and discovering she is made of the same tough stuff as every special needs parent.Trish Shaeffer is the mom of 3 active boys with special needs. She’s a peer supporter for Parent to Parent and volunteers with the United Cerebral Palsy Network, Special Olympics, and the United Way. She’s also an equine volunteer at Leg Up Farm. She’s married to her best friend and biggest supporter, Chris Schaeffer.

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