Next Step Therapy Blog: A Therapist, A Mom to ‘Special Needs’ Children

NST-Sarah, an occupational therapist, shares a letter on being a therapist and a mom to “special needs” children.

I am Sarah. I have worked as an occupational therapist for Next Step Therapy since its birth in 2006. Over the years, I have had the honor and privilege to work with countless children and families who are immersed in the “special needs” world. Over the years, I saw children with special needs who had amazing families to support them in their journey and sadly, I saw many children who did not.

As a professional therapist, I recognized that what truly changes the lives of children are their relationships with the ones that love and care for them the most. Therapy is a vital piece to the puzzle. Children need the knowledge and expertise of many different professionals in order to overcome specific challenges in their lives. But it is the family that must fit these pieces together to build the best life possible for their child.

Over the years, my heart began to ache for the children who did not have the love and support of a stable family to help pull the pieces together. I could give them one hour each week. But that wasn’t enough. I began to tell my husband “I just want to bring these kids home with me”. It turns out that it is widely frowned upon in the professional world to “just bring kids home” with you….

And so, my husband and I became licensed to be foster parents. Twenty minutes after receiving our license in the mail, we received a phone call. The voice on the other end asked if we would take two little children into our home. They were 1 and 3: a boy and a girl.

The night before, they had watched their mother threaten to stab their father with a knife. They watched the police come and take her away. Later that night their dad overdosed on drugs. The next morning, mom was incarcerated and dad was on life support. And, they had no parents to care for them. Shortly after their arrival into our home, I could tell that the little boy had trouble walking. He had trouble using his left hand. It turns out that he had cerebral palsy that had gone undiagnosed and untreated. And so I myself became a “special needs” mom for the first time.

Over the past three years, our family has welcomed nearly twenty different children into our home. They ALL have had special and unique needs. Cerebral Palsy, Prematurity, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder, Autism Spectrum, conditions relating to dental, dermatology, urology, neurology….I think ’ve had appointments with all of the “-ologists”….

And, all of these children have one thing in common. They all need someone to love THEM AS THEY ARE. With all of their initial diagnoses, all of their “-ologist” appointments, their medications, their therapies, their medications and treatments. and lotions and potions.

With all of their socially “unacceptable” behaviors, “inappropriateness” and “deficits,” at the end of the day, kids with “special” needs are kids whose “special need” is love. Kids who need a hug and a kiss and an “I’ll love you forever.” No matter what. Because “BEING A KID” trumps being a “SPECIAL NEEDS KID” every time.

Side Notes:
• I DO NOT use capital letters lightly

• It was with the inception of Next Step Therapy in 2006 that I officially affirmed: Big dreams CAN and WILL come true.

• LOVE WINS. EVERY TIME. Love wins over ability, disability, ordinary needs and special needs. It wins over frustration and exhaustion. It wins over appointments and commitments. It wins over the mountains that must be climbed, the challenges that must be overcome, pride that must be swallowed, and lifestyles that must be changed. It wins over the tears and the heartache and the what-ifs.

• If you can give a child love. If you can just be there for the ups and downs. If you can give a smile, and a hug and a kiss, and an “I love you”. If your heart and soul and strength are consumed by the miracle that is your child, then you have won. Your child has won. Love has won.

Love, Sarah.

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