Special needs? No excuses.

When I was teaching freshman English, I remember a paper conference I had with a student one morning. While looking over his paper, he told me that he had ADHD.

“But I don’t let it hold me back,” he said quickly, even though my eyes held only encouragment and understanding. “My parents always said, ‘You have some challenges, but you can’t ever use your ADHD as an excuse.’ I just have to work harder. It’s not easy, but I don’t let it hold me back.”

I always remember this conversation. For one, it was the first time in my very new teaching career that a student had told me about his special needs. I felt honored and wondered how I could help him succeed.

But this conversation has also replayed in my mind again and again as I raise my own two sons, both of whom have ADHD and one of whom is Autistic.

“You have some challenges,” I tell them. “I know it’s not easy. But your ADHD/Autism is not an excuse. It just means we have to be creative, work through things together, try again.”

Understanding and explanations, yes, but no excuses.

We’re going to get there, but ADHD and Autism mean my boys will have to take the long way ‘round.

The long way ‘round is tough, and as my boys travel their paths, I’ve realized that I’m on the long way ‘round too.

But I struggle with parenting them without excuses.

I read parenting articles about patience and I find myself scoffing, “Yeah, that’s all well and good. I bet the person who wrote this doesn’t have special needs kids. You have no idea.”

I find myself justifying my irritation: “Well, I asked nicely the first three times! If you would just PAY ATTENTION, Mommy wouldn’t yell!”

“These kids!” I sigh in exasperation to my husband, throwing up my hands and rolling my eyes. “What is wrong with them?!”

Many days their invisible disabilities are difficult for me too, even though I’m their mom and I love them dearly.

I’ve realized that I’ve got to stop making excuses for my behavior too. I tell my boys that their special needs are not an excuse for bad behavior. I want to raise them right, to be kind, loving, respectful men.

But that means I have to be kind, loving, and respectful too. Having special needs kids does not justify me acting like a jerk, dismissing my impatience and irritation as an acceptable byproduct of the parenting challenges I face on a day to day basis.

ADHD and Autism are really real and really challenging but I don’t ever want my boys to say “I can’t” because of their special needs.

I don’t want to say “I can’t” either. Because I can.
unknownI can be kind.
I can be patient.
I can be creative, interested, and loving.

You can too.

Do you have special needs in your life and unique frustration?
I know—it’s really, really hard.

We’re on the long way ‘round. We have challenges.

But let’s keep moving forward, choosing love, choosing kindness, choosing relationship.
We can’t let our excuses hold us back.

PS. But first I have to say “I’m sorry.”
When you want to walk away, and how to come back.

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