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Book Excerpt: A Special Mother — How Are You Doing?

Special needs stories-Special education stories

In her book, A Special Mother: Getting Through the Early Days of a Child’s Diagnosis of Learning Disabilities and Related Disorders, LD activist and author Anne Ford devotes an entire chapter to several ways mothers of children with learning disabilities can take care of themselves. Here's an excerpt.


How to Focus on your Needs

We must not fall into the trap of thinking that concern for ourselves somehow takes away or lessens our concern for our children. We mothers of children with LD have enough concern and worry to blanket the world. Surely, we can spare a little for ourselves!

Sometimes the pressures build and have no outlet, but they cannot stay bottled up forever. They eventually come out, but in ways that are not productive and can actually harm our family. Some of the mothers I have talked to are overwhelmed. They can no longer cope with the uncertainty and frustrations brought about by a diagnosis of their child’s LD.

One mother I met, Marianne, certainly had experience with this. She has two sons, Peter and Andrew. The older one, Peter, was diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD when he was ten years old. She told me the pressures of dealing with her son’s LD caused her to have what she called “a bit of a nervous breakdown.”

“You really have to work to keep balance in your life,” Marianne told me. “For me, that means not always focusing on my son. If I always focus on him, I can get myself into an obsessive state. It sounds corny but one of the things that helps me stay really balanced is watching The Dog Whisperer. The dog trainer on that show, Cesar Millan, is a bit of a psychologist, too, for both dogs and their owners. He always says you don’t get the dog you want; you get the dog you need. I think that philosophy spills over into other aspects of your life, because it’s all about energy. I try to bring his theory into human affairs. For example, he advises against escalating situations in which you try to match or surpass the other person’s anger or negative energy. It’s always about being calm and steady and projecting the same sort of energy you would like to receive from others. When you do, other people react to it. You can also try that with children or with anyone. For example, I used to get very angry. Someone would say something and I would say something back, or I’d try to top them. But now I just let it go, and that helps me stay balanced. It’s a process. I also have to walk every morning. I have to get exercise.”

Exercise is a key to many women’s ability to handle the stress of LD. Meditation is another. Mothers who would never dream of meditating or taking up yoga now swear by it as the antidote to the pressures brought on by LD. Others talk to a therapist. Some of you might click your tongue and say, “Meditation? Yoga? Therapy? I could never focus so much on myself!”

Think of it this way: by focusing on your own needs, you create the ability to focus much more strongly and effectively on everyone else’s needs. In the cause of ensuring your child is getting the best help possible, taking care of yourself should be considered as important and necessary as attending a school meeting or taking your child to a pediatrician. You cannot be helpful if you are continually overwhelmed by the million and one emotions that come flooding over us, especially in the early days of a child’s diagnosis.