Monday, March 23, 2015

Those times when your special needs mom patience runs out

It was just four words—Frozen Fever, Take Two?—the title of the article Max had chosen for his weekly current events. He needed to type them into his speech app for his class presentation. But, no. It wasn't happening.

As a special needs parent, you tend to develop super-human patience. Really, what choice do you have? Our kids are on their own timelines for development. You can't make them walk, talk, use their hands, gain cognition or do any number of other things any sooner than they themselves are ready to (if they, in fact, have it in them), no matter how much therapy they get.  So even as you ache for them to just do it, you hold back your hopes and wait it out.

Then there's the daily patience you develop. So much can take longer: eating, bathing, dressing, getting out the door to go somewhere, making crafts, exploring a museum, understanding schoolwork. If your child happens to have certain, er, interests (read: obsessions), then wow, does your patience go into overdrive. I have developed an amazing tolerance for listening to fire truck videos on YouTube (my brother-in-law recently expressed hope that maybe Max's next obsession will be something a little quieter—say, monarch butterflies).

So there we were doing Max's weekly current events. I left Max to type in the name of the article (part one of the assignment), and went off to brush my teeth. When I returned five minutes later, he was still sitting in front of a black screen.

Max's mind tends to work the way an iPhone or Mac does when it's "thinking." Like that little whirring wheel, his brain sometimes takes time to process information. But typing the title of an article isn't typically challenging for him—he just needed to focus.

"Max, please, type in the name of the article!" I said.

He stared blankly at the screen. He stared at me.

"Max, I'm going to leave again and when I come back, the title should be there," I said. I didn't want him to feel pressured by my presence. When I walked in a few minutes later, though, he still hadn't typed it. He just looked at me.

I felt the patience seeping out.

"Max, if you don't type the title, we can't finish your current events," I said.

He gestured at me. As in, you do it.

"Nope," I said. "It's your homework. You have to do it."

He stared at the screen some more. My last bit of patience left me. What in the world was up? Why was he not doing this? What was so difficult?

Really, it wasn't just the title. It was everything, one of those times when I wished that stuff didn't have to be so hard. I had a lot more of these moments when Max was a tot, but sometimes, they still hit. There's no "easy" button when you're the parent of a kid with special needs.

"Max!" I said, more sharply than I would have liked. "Type. The. Title!"

Well, that startled him into action. He typed one letter and looked at me.

"Good!" I said. "Finish up!"

Slowly but surely, he pecked out the rest of the title. It took him maybe 30 seconds once he got going.

I sighed a deep sigh. Max gave me a "What's wrong with you?" look. And then, we could at last get started on explaining the article, which he more or less did without drama.

File under: "only human."


  1. Max has reached the age where he realizes the pain homework can be. Enjoy Ellen!

  2. I admit to snapping under homework-related pressure.

    1. Me too. Especially math.

  3. You would be having the homework battles whether your child was special needs or not, if that's any comfort. Just ask my sister! :-)

  4. Also file under "Raising a pre-teen" I never realized how much a saint my mother is until I looked back an thought about what my brothers and I put her through

  5. My train-obsessed nephew (age 9) is on the spectrum. My now-retired dad (physics professor) and uncle (engineer) are also train-obsessed. The Transportation Museum is their nirvana.

    So my dad and uncle now take my nephew to the train museum, train show, award ceremony for some train-related patent that my dad developed in Zurich and anyplace else train-related.

    It's awesome -- Nephew prefers to talk trains with his grandpa and grand uncle. Dad prefers to talk trains with Nephew.

    My mom, my sister (nephew's mom) and I are spared ALL TRAIN TALK. It's delightful!


Thanks for sharing!

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