How we do it


Chicago Parent Staff


"It can be a lonely, frustrating place as a mom of a special needs child. But the best way to get through it is to find a team of trusted people who are your support network. ... Assemble a team of people who approach the situation with the same mindset you have. Don't be afraid to tweak the group until you feel comfortable-everyone I know has "fired" a resource person who didn't approach their child in the way that made them comfortable."

Laura McGowan, Aurora

"Being the parent of a special needs child forces you to ride the special parent see-saw. It's like riding a bull for the first time with no instruction. Some days you are up so high that your feet are lifted clear off the ground and others you find your feet dragging down in the mud. No matter what your child's special need may be, the see-saw ride is quite a challenging one. You have to hang on for dear life, hang on to your child, hang on to your spouse and the rest of your family."

Walter Burden, Palos Heights

There is no handbook. We just deal with what's given to us on a daily basis. Having a child with special needs and a "typical child" is hard. For the most part, our son with Down syndrome needs the same things as any other child: love, patience and understanding.

Jayme Rybka, Frankfort

My biggest tip would be to have a sense of humor, and if you're 10 minutes late for the dentist, it's not the end of the world. (That cavity will still be there, I promise!)

The important thing for our family is to set aside time for each of our three children. Dinner, shopping or breakfast alone can make a world of difference. We also talk to them about what is going on. It's important that they know and understand that the 'special' treatment they feel Sadie is getting isn't 'special,' it's just 'adjusted'. They are so young right now that it's hard for them to understand, but eventually they will, and hopefully they will appreciate the effort we put in to make our family cohesive and full of love.

Mary Edgar, Wheaton

We are a laid back family and I think our son is laid back because of it. I try not to sweat the small stuff. Our son is 12 years old and has come a long way.

I always told people that I feel very blessed to have a child with autism. He is so special to us and helps us see things in a totally different way. So he's a little quirky or odd and likes to script cartoon episodes, sing rap music and jump around thinking he's a hip-hop dancer. As long as he is happy, that's all that matters to us! We love him to pieces!

Lisa Morgan, Plainfield

My two sons are only 2½ years apart in age, but developmentally, they're 7 years apart. Family outings can be very stressful. Our older son (typically developing) becomes frustrated at the excruciatingly slow pace we have to take at museums, parks, etc., to accommodate the needs of his brother, who is hearing impaired and has a Mitochondrial Disorder.

Our solution is to "divide and conquer." We stick together for the first half hour, then split up until lunch, each taking one boy. We switch kids after lunch and meet up again at the end of the day. It makes for a more balanced day with quality time together and with each boy.

Carrie Capes, Maple Park


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