Why I'm Afraid To Talk About My Child's Special Needs

by Adrian Wood
Originally Published: 
Special Needs child
Adrian Wood

Amos is my delicious fourth child — the icing on our cake — and yet his special needs bring complications to friendships. He is almost 3 and still lacks the words that would connect him to his peers; his lack of language and the gap with his peers leaves me feeling stranded and disconnected from my own friends as well.

I try to temper how much I divulge about Amos’s special needs; too much may be just that — too much. I have reason to believe it is a conversation that should be tempered because there are those who avoid the too-deep conversation with me. I feel the weight of your thoughts, and it hurts when they go unspoken or when you attempt to smooth away the gaps in his development. I don’t need encouragement to pretend everything will be fine, but I do need you — your friendship, you asking questions, and you listening. Perhaps my openness about the reality of raising a child with special needs is overly frightening and maybe it seems depressing to you. Or is it just more than you can handle or more than you bargained for in our light and airy friendship? Regardless of the underpinnings, my special needs talk seems to be scaring some friends away.

If anybody gets it, it’s me. Amos is more than I bargained for too. He belongs to me, though, and I have been the one entrusted to follow when he ventures off into the world. I know better than anyone the really hard moments, especially when the minutes pool into hours of endless frustration. These times are overflowing with endless tears and woeful wailing, both of which are resplendent with careful head banging that propels me — if only for an instant — to think about how easy life would have been if I had stopped with three children. Perhaps that sounds evil or terribly insensitive, but I offer that glimpse into my own heart so that you know that the truth is hard for me too.

Will you try to understand that it is even harder if I am expected to remain silent? It is a self-induced state where I am seemingly stoic, but underneath there’s a lethal mix of emotions that dispel the notion of actual coping. It’s all a careful coverup, and much like a child’s game of pretend, it can not go on forever. Yes, we all have to grow up sometime and face the shadows lurking within us. You see, the talking and revealing drives them far away in their carriages of fear. I’m scared, and if I have ever needed a village, it is now. To feel alienated is far more difficult than managing my Amos.

Please don’t run away. Come back, and don’t feel the pressure of not knowing what to say or what to do. This is all new to me too. My life was once like yours — just a regular, typical sort of big family with run-of-the-mill traditional dilemmas. I still get all that; I’ve got all those too. I promise I can talk laundry with the best of them, and yes, the grocery store and expectations of cooking healthy meals for squawking children demanding Fruit Loops still hits close to home for me. I try to be respectful of your space as I need all the friends I can get.

I don’t want my talk of special needs to scare you away, though I know I cross the fine line too often, and yet I can’t seem to help myself. Will you bear with me, just a bit longer? Will you smile and say “I’m sorry” if I seem upset, or flop on my couch and fill me in on the latest gossip? You don’t have to try to make things okay or feel like you need to hide your children’s feats of accomplishment. I adore watching them, and yes, my heart aches, but I can be — and will be — happy for you. I need your words; the silence is deafening, and I need your voice to remind me of the impenetrable joy that is mine for the taking.

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