• English
  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Portuguese
  • Spanish
  • Swedish
Back to Firefly Blog

Special Needs Parenting: Elephants in the Room

Special Needs Parenting: Elephants in the Room

But in my case it is true. I am an older mother; I was already in my forties when Freddie was born. Which leaves me with an elephant in the room.

No, two elephants in fact.

The first elephant is one that a few (rude) people do occasionally point out – the ‘what-will-happen-to-him-when-you’re-gone elephant.

The second is one that no one ever mentions, even though it is a great, grey and wrinkled matriarch that sooner or later casts its shadow across every woman. It is the elephant of change.

The Change.

Yes, I know it is an issue for all ladies, but, as I am discovering, it is a particularly troublesome one for mothers of children with special needs.

Take my own case. Freddie is six, but developmentally he is still a toddler. Developmental Delay does not just mean that a child will hit the milestones later, but also that each stage of the process happens much more slowly.

Freddie gets frustrated for pretty much the same reasons as any two-to-three year old does, and his behaviour is challenging because of that.

But he’s been going through the ‘terrible twos’ for three years now, after effectively being a baby for three-and-a-half.

Any parent will tell you that the baby and toddler stage can be physically and mentally draining.

We special needs parents have added emotional stressors too. We have been going through this most demanding phase of childhood for an extended period, at a time when my resources are at their lowest ever ebb.

In a few short months I have gone from being someone who thought nothing of walking for a brisk hour to get to town, and then trotting up six flights of stairs to her tutor’s office, to being a woman who barely has the energy for a ten-minute stroll to the corner shop.

At night I am restless and burning, and by the time Freddie wakes me up I am even more exhausted than when I went to bed.

He can be uncooperative when it comes to the necessary routines of the day; playing or reading is far more interesting than going to the toilet or having a wash.

Often the only way to get him to the bathroom is to carry him there, squirming in protest. When I do, every joint below my shoulders nags me painfully. During the day I am so physically shattered that I could sleep on a washing line.

My brain is so tired that the thought of planning a meal that Freddie can manage, and everyone else is prepared to eat, seems like an insurmountable challenge.

I have lost count of the times I have served up beans on toast recently.

But even warming a can of Heinz and singeing some bread becomes a major task when undertaken alongside the supervision of Freddie – prompting him to think about whether he needs the toilet, then taking him, wiping his nose, preventing him from eating the tissue, or nibbling the corners off books, and retrieving him from various places where he gets ‘stuck’ (purely for dramatic effect).

My formerly pre-menstrual headaches now strike randomly, bringing with them nausea and a mental stiffness so acute that I struggle to recall even commonplace words.

I cannot plan around them anymore, because they no longer conform to their accustomed pattern.

The only painkillers that worked are now forbidden to me because they clash with the medication I take for the horrendous mood swings that almost saw me single again.

Poor Freddie must have been so confused by my inconsistency; it is no wonder his behaviour deteriorated. I think it is time to start taking the advice that all special needs parents give to one another, but ignore themselves: take care of yourself.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to do some research into the menopause.

I need to find ways to stay as well as possible for as long as possible – so that I can put off tackling that first elephant for a little while yet.

Firefly Blog

Real life stories, issues and experiences of day to day life by special needs parents and
healthcare professionals.

47 Stripey Socks

Meet Our Blogger

Down’s Syndrome, my family and me – one mum’s account of family life with an extra chromosome.

View Kerry’s Profile

Become a Firefly Blogger

Would you like to write for Firefly? Join our blogger network of parents, therapists and professionals.

Get In Touch

Become a subscriber today

Join over 40,000 subscribers to our weekly newsletter with insightful articles just when you need them.

Join Mailing List

By using our site you agree to our use of cookies. Click here for more info.

Accept & Close

No Interest if paid in full in 4 months on

Purchases on £99+

UK Customers only. Subject to credit approval. See terms below

Paypal Credit

Pay now or pay over time with PayPal Credit. Just use PayPal Credit in PayPal checkout.

Subject to credit approval.

Purchases of £99+:

No Interest if paid in full in 4 months on purchases of £99 or more.

  • A minimum monthly payment is required and may or may not pay off the promotional purchase by the end of the 4-month period.
  • No interest will be charged on the purchase if you pay it off in full within 4 months. If you do not, interest will be charged on the purchase from the purchase date at the Purchase APR applicable to your account.
  • Any remaining balance due after the 4-month promotional period or any transactions under £99 will be charged interest at 19.9% p.a. (variable).

Purchases of £98.99 or less:

Buy now and pay over time with PayPal Credit when you spend £98.99 or less.

  • If you pay your balance in full each month by the payment due date that is on your statement, you can avoid paying interest.
  • Or, make minimum monthly payments, or any additional amount of your choosing, until you've paid off your balance according to your standard account terms. Please note, interest charges may apply.
  • We'll send you email reminders when your payments are due. You can also keep track of your account and view your statements online at any time.

About PayPal Credit

  • PayPal Credit is a reusable credit line available on purchases at thousands of stores that accept PayPal. It's also available for purchases on eBay and exclusively at thousands of other online stores. Plus, it comes with the same security and flexibility you trust from PayPal.
  • In order to maintain the 0% offer, you need to keep up monthly repayments and stay within your credit limit. Credit subject to status. Terms and conditions apply. UK residents only.

Please wait...