A few weeks ago, I shared that we were getting a psychiatric service dog for my 11-year-old son.
For the past few months, I have openly shared the different therapies and interventions we employ for both my sweet boys who have special needs. For three years, I have tried to explain, as best I can while still protecting some shred of my children’s privacy, the realities of our day-to-day life.
We are learning to how to live and live well despite so many diagnoses I don’t even list them anymore, in large part due to the treatment decisions we have made.
Since going public with our service dog story, I have been greatly encouraged to hear from other families who have done the same and with great results. I have met many online moms considering the same option and trying to learn as much as possible.
And inevitably, I have also received the emails and comments that come every single time I share a new approach to my sons’ care, all asking the same, borderline accusatory question:
Does he really need it?
Does my child with special needs really need these treatments, therapies, and interventions? The short answer is yes.
The much longer and more complicated answer is this: He needs something. He is struggling, and we need to help him as best we can. We never really know what therapies or which treatments will really help. It’s a bit like throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks.
And we, his parents, are not the only ones taking this approach. Ask any doctor or professional working with medically and psychiatrically complicated children and they will tell you the same thing: No one knows what will work from one child to the next.
So we just try one right after the other, until we find the right approach.
You just read my standard “let me help you understand” answer.
Here is my gut-level, “I am so tired I can’t see straight answer to this question” response: No one would do this for fun.
No one would spend every last dime they have to get a service dog when they have never even considered getting a dog in the first place.
No one would endure countless questions, forms, more questions, and then a little judgment thrown in from time to time, to work with a therapist that their insurance company is likely going to deny coverage for.
No one enjoys having to force their child into the phlebotomist’s seat for yet another blood test.
No one celebrates the attention they get when their child gains 25 pounds in five weeks because of a medication.
The reality is, we are not even doing all the things that all the people tell us we need to do. Speech therapy, physical therapy, educational therapy, further occupational therapy, and no less than three other prescription medications are all interventions that have been advised for my sons. For various reasons, including not enough hours in the day, we are not doing them right now.
We may at some point. We may not.
The decisions we make regarding my sons’ treatment plans are carefully considered and weighed against all the other interventions we employ. It is fluid. It changes based on progress, age, development, need, and honestly, money.
We are doing the very best we can for these kids. It’s likely that we are messing it up. But it is the best we can do, given our circumstances.
Sometimes we have wonderful successes. Sometimes we have colossal failures.
But know this: We have never sat down at the end of the day and thought, What else can we add to our plate? Let’s throw in another hour-long therapy shall we?
Does my son need these interventions?
Yes. He needs all of them and more, every single day.
I am grateful we can provide them, and I am grateful we are seeing progress and real healing as a result of his treatment plan.
It’s why I share any of this in the first place. We have to help each other, share what is working, and encourage each other to keep trying. And more than any therapeutic approach, we need compassion, we need grace, and we need to know we are not alone.
It’s true for my son, and it’s true for his momma.
My guess is that it’s true for you too.