All of us mothers grapple with the myriad challenges that are part and parcel of motherhood. But some moms face obstacles every day that only other moms of children with special needs can fully understand and the women featured here bravely share their personal stories in the hope that it will help more children find the schools they desperately need.
Ladies, thank you for the window into your journeys—painful as they have been at times—as mothers navigating the world of special education in your search for the schools that can and will best serve your children. Your resilience and advocacy inspire all of us but perhaps even more importantly, your honesty helps other mothers (and fathers) in similar circumstances to feel less alone. And more hopeful.
As Autism Awareness Month winds down, we honor your work as writers and as remarkable and brave mothers willing to put yourselves out there on behalf of your own kids—and all kids.
Beth Hawkins is a writer at The 74 and a personal friend and former colleague of mine. Beth lives in Minnesota and has written extensively about her experiences as the mother of a son with Asperger’s Syndrome, a high-functioning form of Autism. She is relentlessly honest—to the dismay of some—about the her son Corey’s educational journey and the struggle to find a school where the adults would believe in him and understand that he needed high expectations much more than he needed their pity.
When Corey’s hiccups led to an autism diagnosis, the belief gap opened before us like a ravine.
For a number of years, most of the conversation about Corey’s education centered on managing his time. How much of it would he spend in a regular classroom, where the ability to sit still and drown out sensory overload was frequently conflated with intelligence and motivation? How much would he spend with other special education students in spaces where the pressure to be “normal” was off, but so was any expectation of academic excellence?
To read the full piece, click the red link below. To see all of Beth’s pieces at The 74, click here.
Falling Into the Belief Gap: What It Feels Like to Realize Your Child’s Teachers Have Sized Him Up and Dumbed Down Their Estimations
Liz Winslow is a New Jersey mother of three children, one girl and two boys. Both boys have special needs though only her older one, Tristan, has a definitive diagnosis to include autism and ADHD; the other, Aaron, has some sort of mental illness but it’s unclear exactly what is going on. She describes him as “a very smart kid who is not autistic but who is completely out of control.”
I feel incredibly blessed to have my daughter Cora, who is neurotypical and social and wonderful — and whose existence honestly does show me that our sons had incredibly bad luck, not incredibly bad parents. But this is the death of any number of dreams. Of having our kids all in the same school. Instead of taking a picture of Aaron on his first day of kindergarten in front of our house, we’ll be loading him onto a short bus to travel 25 miles each way to a school that can deal with a child who is so dangerous. We’d already mostly given up on playgrounds because while most parents are extremely tolerant of visible disabilities, mental illness, not so much — and I had to give up on being all over him and apologizing all the time.
He’s not going to do sports, or be in clubs, and I don’t even understand why not. At least with Tristan there are THINGS we can point to — a bad family history with the health of boys, diagnoses out the wazoo. With Aaron there’s… nothing. He just can’t function in any way remotely approaching normal.
Click the link below to read the piece in full.
I Could Deal with Holland But I Got Caracas: A Special Needs Mom’s Story
Other pieces by Liz can be read here and here.