As we joyfully prepared for a move toward adoption for one of our foster children, we also heartbreakingly received a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. It has been a process to accept and come to terms with this as we also try to find our family’s new normal.
When you have a child with special needs, you learn what he or she needs and how you can best help him or her function. What may not look normal to one family becomes your family’s normal as you navigate this journey. On good days, you function within your family’s normal, and you avoid any major meltdowns or catastrophes. You can experience days, sometimes even weeks, that go by as you live your normal and then it hits you like a ton of bricks out of nowhere that to anyone watching from the outside, you are not normal. Maybe you even think to yourself in those sad and ugly moments that your child is not normal, and that your family is not at all normal.
It’s easy to let yourself become overwhelmed with the challenges that your child and your family face. You can worry about all that your child might not be able to do, and all that you will have to help him or her overcome – if it can be overcome. You can mourn the loss of everything you have dreamed of for your child.
Having a child with special needs and abilities can leave you in a constant cycle of grief. Just when you have found yourself in the stage of acceptance and living that new normal, the denial and isolation creeps back in.
This journey through special needs parenting is too new for me to know how it will look years from now. In talking with other parents, and experiencing what we have so far, I imagine this cycle will continue to repeat itself. I know that as we conquer challenges and reach a stage of acceptance, new challenges can surface and we will fight that isolation and denial once again. That is life having a child with special needs.
But there are also these special abilities. The strengths your child has will leave you amazed. Yes, there are challenges and needs that may be unique, but these strengths and abilities are just as special. They may take your child further then those needs will ever hold them back. I find peace and strength to carry on in our own normal. I love all that my child is and all that my child can and will be.
– Charonne Ganiere, licensed foster parent