Archives for the month of: January, 2017

Fantastic Traits of a Strong Special Needs Dad

“I will take her for a walk, Mich.”   

Those are the words John said during an especially tough Thanksgiving dinner about 9 years ago.  Michael was still a baby, it was his first Thanksgiving actually.  He was NEVER a fussy little guy, but on that day he was.  I think due in part to a change in his schedule, but whatever the cause, he was not a happy little man.  Elizabeth was struggling to sit and eat at the table.  She did not like the food, and what I brought for her did not work either.  She was not talking very clearly that day or using more that a couple of words per sentence, so it was hard to figure out exactly what was wrong.  So between the usually happy baby who was not, and our beautiful Elizabeth in the throes of some serious sensory issues, I was about a minute away from joining Michael in crying….then came John’s words.

And he did, on a brisk November day (Ohio weather), he did.

While he was gone, we were able to get Michael to stop crying.

When they returned, calm had returned

To the house.

To the table.

To me.

My Support and My love had helped me so very much that day.

The day kind of sticks out in my memory as a big one. We all know holiday gatherings can be stressful for the best of us, let alone what it can do to the normal rhythms and routines of those with special needs.

That day was an example, but there have been  an infinite amount of other times, when John read the situation and knew how to help support me, as we helped Elizabeth.
Our teamwork was pretty clear from the start.


John loved being a Dad from the start. I was happier than anything to be home with our children.  I loved every minute but was so happy when John came home.  He would be tired from work, but fresh for the kids.  He immediately lit up to see us, and he started playing.  Chasing, hugging, laughing, loving and “being there” That was and still is how he works.

Being the Dad of a child with special needs is not easy, at least from my point of view. There is a huge learning curve, in my opinion. Learning how to have that certain spark of life – a connection, with those with special needs.

I think it was really hard on John.  He would come home, reach out to hug Emily and Elizabeth, and only Emily could hug him. Or he would home on the weekend and he wanted to play with “his girls” and Elizabeth would hide behind a chair because it was too much for her.  

In the early years with Elizabeth, there was not a guarantee as to what John would be walking into at the end of the day.  There was no guarantee that I would not be beside myself by the time John came home, or that Elizabeth would not be in the middle of a meltdown.   

Then there were  all the hours we spent talking about Elizabeth and her days, her therapies, her successes.

And all the hours he talked to me about me.  About how I was handling things.  

And the hours we had talked when our opinions differed greatly about the next step for Elizabeth.  Like  why I was sure that this therapy would be a good one, or why I just knew she needed to go to this camp.  

And all the hours of hugs and support he gave as I would cry because this was the time I was sure she would talk and she didn’t.   

John was and is all those things to this day.

But for Elizabeth

-He was the one to offer her calm.  I pushed her each day, John allowed her to be.

-He offered her a quiet space.  I took her to busy therapies and schools, John took her to the swings.

-John made her laugh.  I loved he made her forget her tears that day.’

– He saw the fun child and enjoyed her.

-And he loved her, each and everyday. Elizabeth knew it then and she knows it now.

If anybody were to ask me what I felt was the biggest gift from a special needs Dad, I would have to say the last one.  

We all need to feel love and acceptance.  It is just human nature.  But to give that gift to a child who is working so hard for the simplest things is precious and priceless.

So to those Dads who get up and hug their children, know the gift you are giving              

And for those who hug their child, who cannot hug them back, know the gift you are giving is received and treasured even more.


The question is often asked, “What do you want people to know about parenting a child with Sensory Processing Disorder?”

My immediate reaction is kind of like an explosion of information in my head, not unlike the finale of a fireworks display.

So after the embers settled I came up with the following thoughts:



No one can tell you how you will feel when you “know” something is not right with your child.  No one can tell you how to feel when you find out just, what is “wrong” with your child. Finally, no one can tell you how to stop feeling scared.  Trust me, even after 19 years, I can still have nights where my thoughts roam to the future and I can still feel scared.



I find it funny, for as common as Sensory Processing Disorder is, for as many people I see on social media who have loved ones affected by it, I do not know one person close to me that has had their lives affected by it.  Let alone, as significantly as Elizabeth was. So I felt quite alone on this journey.   It was hard to go to play dates and functions with neurotypical children, and watch Elizabeth struggle to play, or talk, or to try new things.



It is kind of a weird thing, but I want to talk about my daughter and her disorders even though I know others may not truly understand.  I know I have engaged in a myriad of conversations about other people’s children. We talk about their activities and lives, and during some of these talks, I can start to feel overwhelmed. I start wondering if Elizabeth can or will do the same things.  It is then that the need to talk about her and her growth or struggles is almost overwhelming. I want to talk about our life with Elizabeth.

I guess what I am saying is, please ask us how things are going for our special child and ourselves and we will be so thankful to have you listen. The best thing that you can do for a parent of a child with special needs is to just be there and listen, listen to all the hardships, all the hard work, and all of the triumphs.


I know all the developmental charts have ranges of time that certain skills should be attained.  (Just for the record we usually fell on the late end of normal, okay, past the late end of normal.)  But as children get older certain things get done at certain times, even though there is no more chart.  Braces for instance, in our neck of the woods, children get braces as early as elementary school. Elizabeth got hers on in when she was 14 years old.  I was beyond excited that she could do this because, up until a certain point in her life, visiting the dentist for a simple cleaning would result in more tears and screaming than any poor dentist should have to endure in a lifetime. So those braces on her teeth made me smile!  I will rejoice when she gets a license even if it is way past the age of 16.  It all makes me happy so even though some say certain things are done at certain times, I say I will listen to Elizabeth’s timeline.



I will celebrate all accomplishments from Elizabeth.  I will celebrate the smallest of them, think writing her name in cursive.  As well as the big ones, such as Elizabeth learning to ride her bike at the age of 17.

I will also completely get that others may not do this to the extent I do.  I promise I can live well off of one of Elizabeth’s successes for a long, long time.



Such a clear perspective on what is important comes directly from being the mom to this amazing child.  But there are more gifts, and they show up when you are not looking for them. And I make sure to take a moment to give thanks for Elizabeth.

Our oldest and youngest children, Emily and Michael, are two of the kindhearted children I have ever seen.  They befriend those with special needs, and they stand up for those who need the support.  I truly feel that those wonderful traits are indeed  just two of the many, many “gifts of Elizabeth”  Please know that the gifts we get from our daughter make all the work so very worth it.  Please don’t pity me, just know we are blessed.  



In my book I write that I have this imaginary line between life before a special needs child and life after Elizabeth was born.  I was one person before and another after.  This is so true.  I have found on this journey that I am stronger than I ever thought I could be, that I am quite the advocate.  I know I would do whatever it takes to help Elizabeth continue to grow and achieve.  True, I will never be who I was before but who I am now is who I need to be.  And this person simply and truly loves this special child in her life.

Perhaps I could hear some of your thoughts on what you would like people to know about life on your journeys.  Please let me know in the comments.

I wish you all a peaceful week.

– Michele

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