Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Can You Relate?

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Can You Relate?

Article excerpt

Last week, I was grateful to be able to share our story with those who could appreciate it. In the military, every family faces some sort of challenge.

Last week, I was able to attend a leadership training session in Kansas. I learned a lot, but I found myself combing the crowd, looking for someone who had a child with autism or knew someone with the disability. In a nutshell, I had no takers. At every opportunity given to me, I would talk about my boys and how my youngest has autism. I would wait for questions or comments such as, "My neighbor has a child with autism. I'm sure it's hard juggling schedules." I didn't hear comments such as these. Instead, I heard crickets.

Maybe I shouldn't be surprised. This was a week long course and I needed to rely on my parents to care for my boys, which is a tall order. If my parents were not able to get away and Mark's parent's had prior commitments, I would not be able to go to this class. As many people know who raise special needs children, you can't just drop your kids off at a friend's house and say, "Have fun! I'll be back in a few days!" I don't know what it's like to raise children who do not have disabilities. One comment I've heard in the past that would never come out of my mouth is, "I'm alone tonight! Both of my children are at sleepovers. What to do?" I'm giggling as I type the word "sleepover" because in my heart, I know my son with autism will never take part in one with a friend.

After realizing how fortunate I was that I could rely on my parents to watch my children for a week, I felt compelled to at least educate people around me on how difficult it is raising a child with special needs in the military. If they didn't know a family with a special needs child then it was their lucky day, I was going to be the one. Maybe a few months or years down the road, they could meet a family who has similar challenges as mine. Instead of being silent and feeling awkward, they could say, "I met someone with similar challenges." They might feel comfortable with asking the family questions and taking the time to try and understand.

The last day of the course, we were divided up into smaller groups with a facilitator. The point of the small group discussion was to allow participants to really dive into their strengths and weaknesses, examine them, and find ways to adapt. …

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