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Yes, I Am One Of Those Parents

Yes, I Am One Of Those Parents

Image: Seth Radar

Push.

It’s the first word that many of us hear as a parent, right before our babies take their first breath.

One of the big surprises awaiting you if your kids have disabilities is that you never stop hearing it - answers, diagnosis, funding, insurance, education and medical supports. If you want your kids to get the things they need, you’re going to have to push. Constantly.

This doesn’t come easy for many of us. Contrary to popular belief, parents of kids with disabilities are not born knowing how to fight for what our kids need. We’re not tougher or more resilient than everyone else, sometimes we might just really want to cower in the corner and not have to deal with it at all. Some of us may have been raised to believe that asking for things or making a fuss is impolite, and dealing with conflict goes against every fibre of our being.

Yet this is what we’re required to do every day because we live in a world where the very normal needs of our kids - to eat, sleep, breathe, learn, play and be a part of the community in a safe, painless and stress-free way - are for some reason considered to be special. And so we have to ask, over and over, for help in getting our kids the accommodations they need.

Requesting supports in the classroom.
Asking for assistance at the theme park.
Suggesting modifications to the playground.
Making sure dietary needs are met.

The avenues for making these requests are crowded and complicated, so sometimes we need to ask more often or more loudly. It’s at those times that someone in the position to provide you with help might use that infamous phrase...

Oh, you’re one of those parents.

I’m no stranger to these words. They’ve been said to me, about me and about other parents many times simply for being vocal and persistent in asking for the things our kids need. Hearing those words always made me feel so invalidated and misunderstood. But you know what?

They were right.

Because if by ‘those’ parents they mean the ones who...

  • Understand their child’s needs

  • Can describe them using a dictionary-sized list of terminology

  • Make difficult choices about which needs to seek help for

  • Navigate complicated systems for funding and services

  • Pay attention to every nuance of their child’s behaviour

  • Train themselves to become effective communicators

  • Are awesome at finding the information they need

  • Read, understand and think critically about research studies

  • Learn how to set goals and measure progress

  • Develop the skills to understand IEPs and play an active role in developing them

  • Know the details of our kids’ strengths and challenges inside out

  • Spend time researching strategies that work

  • Become skilled note takers and meeting attendees

  • Put their emotions on the back burner

  • Never give up

... in order to get what they need for the people they love the most?

Then yeah, I am one of those parents. You know what kind of parent I’m not? Stubborn, demanding, unrealistic or a pain in the ass.

Asking for the things our kids need and being persistent until we get those things is not designed to make anyone’s life harder. It doesn’t make us difficult or troublesome or demanding, it makes us good parents who want our kids to have the things they need. We want to solve problems, not create them.

We’re not looking for special treatment when we ask for help. All we need is for our kids to be able to use services as they’re intended in a safe, painless and stress-free way. If that’s special treatment, then that says more about the service being provided than it does about us.

So I’m taking back that phrase.

Yes, I am one of those parents. Those parents are awesome. They are hard working and really want to find solutions. If you offer a service of any kind that involves kids then those parents are the ones you want to be working with.

So if you’re able to offer help, please make it easy for me to take you up on it.
If you offer a discount, please don’t make me feel guilty for using it.
If I’ve asked for your help, please know that I’ve already tried to fix the problem myself.
If we agree on a solution, please don’t make me chase you up to see if it’s been implemented.
If a lack of funding and an increased need for the services you provide has made your workload stressful, please understand that me and my kids are not to blame for that.
If you’ve dealt with difficult parents in the past, please give me the benefit of the doubt that I’m not one of them.

And in return, I promise to...

Leave my attitude at the door.
Never ask for more than I’m entitled to.
Remember that you are a busy person with lots of other people to help.
Always make a point of showing you how truly grateful I am for that help.

Because I am one of those parents.

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