Parenting a Special Child

I doubt you really planned for this – special needs parenting.  You probably didn’t read books about “parenting autism” while you were pregnant or while you were waiting to adopt.  Most of us weren’t autism specialists, and some of us didn’t even know that autism existed.  Autism just wasn’t on your radar.

No, you were just a regular person.  You were a regular person who became a parent.  Then, suddenly, BOOM!  Your child received an autism diagnosis and you immediately became an autism parent.    

With that diagnosis of autism, you are immediately granted a special title:  special needs parent.

Now, you did nothing special to earn this title.  You never took and passed the “Welcome to Autism” course as presented by your pediatrician.  You don’t have exceptional patience, nor do you have remarkable knowledge or understanding about special needs or autism.  You aren’t uniquely equipped in any way. Sadly, you have no superpowers.  Bummer, right?!


So many times, we hear people say things like:

“I don’t know how you do it.”

“You are so strong, I couldn’t do what you do every day.”

“I wouldn’t have the patience or understanding to “deal with” a child on the spectrum.”


I believe that people mean well when they say these things.  Perhaps they admire you and the job that you are doing as you parent your child on the spectrum.  Sometimes though, as a parent on “this side of the fence,” these sayings can be frustrating.

We know that we aren’t special.  We don’t have all the answers.  We have days where we question every little decision.  Some days we cry and definitely don’t feel “strong,” as others might assume that we are.  You might even want to shout from the rooftops, “I’m not special!  I’m not any better equipped for this than any other parent!”  Again, we have no super-human, autism-parenting know-how…yet here we are.

I write this to encourage you.  On those days where you feel clueless, helpless, or otherwise less than that superpower persona that you think the world is holding you to…it’s okay.   Breathe.  You aren’t meant to be Super Mom or Super Dad.  You don’t have to know everything or be everything.  It is okay and normal if you don’t know all of the answers.


So how do we do it, you ask?

The answer is simple:  we love our children and will do whatever it takes to give them a happy, successful life.  That’s it.  We are just doing what every other parent in the world is doing – our “normal” is just a little different from that of neurotypical parenting.

We might not have the answers, but we find someone who does.  We seek out professionals – doctors, specialists, therapists.  Our days are filled with research and therapy.  We read books, scour the internet, and talk to other parents who have walked the autism path before us.

We have been given an extraordinary mission: to parent a child with a disability. We have been given a very important job, and we rise to the occasion. I have never thought myself “special,” but I was given a son who is.  I’ll do what it takes to give him his best life, to be successful and to be happy. I’ll sacrifice. I’ll love him. I’ll love him more than I love donuts… and I really love donuts.

Deidra Darst is a speech language pathologist, autism mom, and State Director of the Mountaineer Autism Project.

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