'Special' Brownies And Other Secrets From A Special Needs Mom

by Jacqueline Miller
J-Roman / Getty

Today my 12-year-old asked if I put drugs in the brownies. He wanted fair warning before poking at the corners with his grimy little fingers.

And he was right to ask. In my house, that’s a completely legit question.

But let me back up a little.

Meds are part of our life. If you have children with special needs, you get it. It’s not something I ever envisioned or expected, but hey, it’s just another part of our normal.

All four of my little family take daily prescriptions. “Drugs!” as my sassy 12-year-old likes to comment.

My youngest was born with a rare and serious digestive condition called Hirschsprung Disease, and poor buddy’s been saddled with meds, surgeries and highly unpleasant treatments since, well, Day 2 of his life when his body started shutting down.

As a toddler, he was especially susceptible to a dangerous infection that required heavy duty antibiotics, which happen to taste like liquid metal. It’s impossible to explain to a threenager that he needs to orally ingest penny-flavored syrup to save his life. And it was fairly simple for him to spit, drool or even vomit it back at me.

I had to get very creative.

The evil, life-saving medicine was too strong to disguise in sugary drinks or applesauce. Trust me, I even tried chocolate ice cream.

So I made it into its own thing.

After lots of trial and error, in the end he’d willingly take the antibiotic if I dyed it blue and served it in a medicine cup with a 2-inch straw that allowed him to slurp it up super-fast. It helped to have an apple juice chaser in the wings.

As my son got older, we were lucky enough that his meds came in chocolate-flavored blocks and easy-to-swallow mini-pills. But our good fortune recently ran out when he was prescribed a powdery concoction, along the same lines as Benefiber, only thicker.

I tried dissolving it in his favorite beverage. He miserably informed me that, as a result, I have forever ruined peach-cranberry juice for him.

Then on to Jello. Several flavors, even Jolly Rancher green apple.

But that was a bust, too. The edges of the Jello cup would turn crusty. Ick!

Godiva chocolate pudding. Then Oreo pudding.

But it was still too thick and gritty, especially at the bottom. Nothing was masking that tricky texture.

So I tried baked goods. And — finally! — hit the jackpot. Peanut butter cookies. Confetti cake. Lemon bars. He now takes his medicine like it’s, well, a treat. And even better yet, they’re specially marked for him ONLY.

But now the funny part is, whenever I make goodies for the family, everyone turns suspicious and hesitant to dig in. I even had a friend over for tea recently, and when I told her about my genius method for disguising kiddo’s meds, she no longer wanted to nibble the homemade cookies sitting out.

Today I made a pan of brownies to welcome our new neighbors.

My oldest, who normally would be ogling all over those gooey morsels cooling on the counter, ran to me instead.

“Are those special brownies?” he asked, earnestly.

I had to stifle a laugh.

“Do they have drugs in them? Did you put drugs in these brownies, Mom?”

And then we both laughed. Because, as absurd as it sounds to an outsider, this is our normal.

As a parent, it can be draining and hard and scary being responsible for a child who depends on medication every day. But sometimes, you just gotta sit back and laugh at this life of ours, as we each must do what we gotta do to get by.