Tough Decisions: Parenting With Special Needs

Welcome to the March 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting With Special Needs

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how we parent despite and because of challenges thrown our way. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


What Special Needs?

When I first learned about the topic for this month’s Carnival of Natural Parenting I thought I had it easy. Then I really started to think about it and realized that special needs means so many more things in my family than what may first appear. Then I started to get overwhelmed and had no idea what to write about…

Do I write about my own current special needs and how that has affected my parenting and lack thereof? Do I write about my middle son with Sensory Processing Disorder and how he has changed our family and parenting style? Do I write about my two spirited bookends – one who I learned to parent and the other who challenges everything I learned as one?

I could potentially write on any of those topics and call it a day, but I decided to go with a different approach, for this is something on my mind and for something that many people (to our gifted kids’ detriment) would not consider under the realm of special needs. This is something I am boring my friends and family to tears about. I am being confronted with a decision that could change things for my first-born, and potentially my entire family.

How in the world do I make the right choice?

Trials and Tribulations of Educating a Gifted Child


Educating A Spirited Child

My eldest has always been precocious. Academics come quickly once he is exposed to a concept. He learned multiplication and division at one family meal. Just recently he was creating molecules from a middle school curriculum “just for fun.” He is in second grade.

This is not a brag on his abilities however. I know just how difficult it is to parent a child like him. When he was younger, I read about “spirited children” and tried to glean what I could from it to help him. Now I often spend my time worrying over how to teach him to learn to respect himself and others, to understand that mistakes are a part of learning and that he does not have to know more than everyone else all the time, to let him navigate the social world of school when he often doesn’t always understand and peers certainly don’t always understand him.

He has his share of strengths and weaknesses, but mostly we find ourselves playing catch up when it comes to our parenting of him – all that he is, not just the precociousness. He keeps us on our toes. He keeps everyone on their toes.

Much of the time I have spent trying to make sure he matures socially, becomes well-rounded, and most of all stays happy. I thought that would be better than trying to push him into becoming a genius with little social skills. This is all coming to a head as I realize that he is simply not challenged during school. I have been up at night worrying while spending my days discovering just what our options are.

The process is frustrating. One body of research indicates one thing, another indicates the opposite. As I watch him thrive with the more difficult material that I am presenting to him, I am more and more wary of keeping him in the same class because of his age. And yet…

What will this mean for him?

It will mean he will always be the youngest-and likely the smallest-of his class. He is smaller than most of his age-group as it is.

It will mean that the trials and tribulations of teenagerhood will be thrust upon him a full year (at least) before he is one himself.

It will mean he will be on his own and off to college, with all the responsibilities of that experience a whole year earlier (again, at least).

It will mean that he may experience failure and rejection.

It may not be the solution to anything.

Is he ready for this? Am I?

But, it could also mean that he becomes successfully socially and academically. It could mean that he finds himself and creates connections with peers that actually understand him. It could mean a lot of positive outcomes. It could mean that we stave off boredom, and all the negatives that come with that, a tad longer.

So what this the best choice for this precocious child? I have no idea. What I do know is that nothing in life is guaranteed, children are always going to test what you think you know, and parents just need to weigh their choices and realize that we will make mistakes.

How have you made tough decisions for your children? Have you ever regretted them?


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon March 13 with all the carnival links.)

  • Parenting A Child With Neutropenia — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses the challenge of parenting a young child who cannot produce enough neutrophils to fight off bacterial infections.
  • How I Love My High Need Baby — Shannon at GrowingSlower was shocked to find she is parenting a high-needs baby, but she’s surviving thanks to attachment parenting.
  • We’re a Lot Like You — kaidera at Our Little Acorn talks about how her family is similar to others, even with all their special needs
  • The Emotional Components of Bonding with Preemies — Having a premature baby can bring on many unexpected emotions for parents, but working through those emotions can bring about a wonderful bonding experience. Adrienne at Natural Parents Network shares.
  • Raising a babe with IUGR: from birth through the toddler years — Rachel at Lautaret Bohemiet shares the story of how her son’s post-birth IUGR diagnosis affected his first days of life and gave her an unexpected tutorial in advocating for their rights as a family.
  • When a grandparent has a disability — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes shares how she has approached explaining her mother’s disability to her young child.
  • Taking The Time To Really See Our Children — Sam at Love Parenting writes about her experiences working with children with various disabilities and how it has affected her parenting style.
  • Natural Parenting In An Unnatural Environment — Julie at What I Would Tell You gives us a glimpse into how she improvised to be a natural parent against all odds.
  • Getting Through the NICU — Laura at Authentic Parenting gives a few pointers on how to deal with your newborn’s stay in the NICU.
  • Living With Sensory Processing Disorder — Christy at Adventures in Mommyhood talks about the challenges that can come from living with a child who has SPD.
  • Our rules for NICU – March CarnivalHannabert’s Mom shares her family’s rules for family and friends of a NICU baby.
  • Letter from Mineral’s Service Dog — Erika at Cinco de Mommy imagines the letter that accompanies her special needs son’s Service Dog.
  • Blessings in Unexpected PlacesThat Mama Gretchen welcomes an inspiring guest post from a dear friend who shares about the blessings that come from a child with Down syndrome.
  • Tube Feeding with a Blenderized Diet of Whole Foods — Erica at ChildOrganics shares her experiences with using real food when feeding her daughter who was unable to feed herself and needed a feeding tube.
  • Abbey and Evan — Amyables at Toddler In Tow writes about watching her preschooler play with her friend who is autistic and deaf, and wonders how she can explain his special needs better.
  • How to Minimise the Chance of a {Genetically Prone} Child Being Diagnosed with ADHD — Christine at African Babies Don’t Cry shares her tips on keeping a child who is genetically prone to ADHD from suffering the effects.
  • Tough Decisions: Parenting With Special Needs — Brenna at Almost All The Truth shares what has been keeping her up at night worrying, while spending her days discovering just what her options are for her precocious child.
  • Life with my son — For Dr. Sarah at Good Enough Mum, life with an autistic child is just another variation on the parenting experience.
  • Dear Special Needs Mama — Sylvia at MaMammalia writes a letter of encouragement to herself and other mamas of special needs children.
  • His Voice — Laura at WaldenMommy relives the day her son said his first sentence.
  • What is ‘wrong’ with you’ The challenge of raising a spirited child — Tara at MUMmedia discusses the challenges of raising a child who is ‘more’ intense, stubborn, and strong willed than your average child.
  • Tips for Parenting a Child With Special Medical Needs — Jorje of Momma Jorje shares her shortlist of tips she’s learned in parenting a newborn with special medical needs in a guest post at Becoming Crunchy.
  • Parenting the Perfectionist Child — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children discusses that as parents of gifted children, we are in the unique position to help them develop the positive aspects of their perfectionism.
  • Montessori-Inspired Special Needs Support — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now gives a list of websites and blogs with Montessori-inspired special-needs information and activities.
  • Accommodating Others’ Food Allergies — Ever wonder how to handle another family’s food allergies or whether you should just skip the play date altogether? At Code Name: Mama, Dionna’s friend Kellie (whose family has a host of allergies) shares how grateful she is when friends welcome them, as well as a list of easy snacks you can consider.
  • Only make promises you can keep — Growing up the child of a parent with a chronic illness left a lasting impact on Laura of A Pug in the Kitchen and what she is willing to promise for the future.
  • A Mom and Her Son — Jen at Our Muddy Boots was fortunate to work with a wonderful family for several summers, seeing the mother of this autistic son be his advocate, but not in the ways she thought.
  • Guest Post from Maya at Musings of A Marfan Mom — Zoie at TouchstoneZ is honored to share a guest post from Maya, who writes about effective tools she has found as a parent of two very special boys.
  • You Don’t Have to Be a Rock — Rachael at The Variegated Life finds steadiness in allowing herself to cry.
  • When Special Needs Looks “Normal” — Amy at Anktangle writes about her experience with mothering a son who has Sensory Processing Disorder. She offers some tips (for strangers, friends, and loved ones) on how to best support a family dealing with this particular neurological challenge.
  • Special Needs: Limitation or Liberation? — Melissa of White Noise describes the beauty in children with special needs.
  • How I Learned It’ll Be Okay — Ashley at Domestic Chaos reflects on what she learned while nannying for a boy with verbal delays.
  • Attachment Parenting and Depression — Shannon at The Artful Mama discusses how attachment parenting has helped her get a clearer image of herself as a parent and of her depression.
  • On invisible special needs & compassion — Lauren at Hobo Mama points out that even if we can’t see a special need, it doesn’t mean it’s not there.
  • Thoughts on Parenting Twins — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings shares her approach to parenting twins.
  • ABCs of Breastfeeding in the NICU — Jona at Breastfeeding Twins offers tips for establishing breastfeeding in the alphabet soup of the NICU.
  • Life With Michael – A Mother’s Experience of Life With Aspergers Disorder — At Diary of a First Child, Luschka’s sister-in-law Nicky shares her experience as mother to a child on the Autism Spectrum. It is filled with a mother’s love and devotion to her child as an individual, not a label.
  • Raised by a Special Needs MomMomma Jorje shares what it was like growing up as the daughter of a mother with a handicap.
  • Becoming a Special Needs Mom — Ellen at These Broken Vases shares about becoming the mother of a child with Down syndrome
  • She Said It Was “Vital” — Alicia of Lactation Narration (and My Baby Sweets) discusses the conflict she felt when trying to decide whether therapy was necessary for her daughter.
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Tough Decisions: Parenting With Special Needs — 42 Comments

  1. Pingback: You Don’t Have to Be a Rock

  2. Pingback: ABCs of Breastfeeding in the NICU | Breastfeeding Twins

  3. Giftedness definitely comes with its own set of special needs. I don’t have any answers for you, but I know that you’re carefully weighing all the options, and that you’ll do the best you can for your family. How lucky your son is to have come in to such a thoughtful family!
    Amy @ Anktangle recently posted..When Special Needs Looks "Normal"

  4. I have a close friend that struggled with the same issues that you are facing. She had her son start public school and he was bored to tears, they moved him to different grades, tried different strategies and the school where they lived couldn’t meet his needs. He’s fifteen now and he is such an awesome kid.I think their family has finally found peace in this area. They ended up homeschooling, and he is taking college level courses now. He is a very bright, well adjusted happy kid. I share this to give you hope, that things will turn out despite our imperfect parenting. I do not envy the decisions you have to make. This parenting gig ain’t easy! Thanks for sharing your struggles.
    Erica @ ChildOrganics recently posted..Tube Feeding with a Blenderized Diet of Whole Foods

    • I have been advised that homeschooling could be an option. I am just not sure it is right for our family, especially when he has always thought he was smarter than me! I will have to keep it in mind though, thanks for sharing your friend’s experience.

      • In our state, a homeschool is permitted to teach the children from two families (your own and those of another). If the laws are similar in your state, perhaps you could find a homeschooling family that would fit any criteria you have for teaching your son. (I’ve also heard of a local homeschool parent enrolling in community college classes to take his child to because he didn’t know the material that his 8-10y/o child wanted to learn) Also, if you want to help him socially if he homeschools, perhaps an extracurricular would help (karate, theater, dance, reading/chess/whatever clubs, etc.). Best of luck with this decision:)

  5. Education is such a difficult decision – especially when considering your child’s unique interests/talents/needs. I wish you the best as you explore all your options – perhaps a combination of school/homeschool would provide a balance of social/academic success?

  6. Ah, that’s such a hard decision. My parents had to decide for me as well whether to move me up a grade or not. They decided not to, for many of the downsides you mention, such as being socially always at a disadvantage. Fortunately for me, there were good programs in place at my elementary schools for talented & gifted kids, and they would let me take, say, my reading class at a different grade level, and then I was able to track up to AP classes later on. My husband’s parents did sort of move him up, in that they started him in kindergarten earlier, and he was always the youngest and most socially awkward in his class (no offense, and he’d admit it), but he did fine despite that. I really think with these decisions there’s probably no “right” answer and that you have to do what your mama heart is telling you is best for now for your son, after weighing all the options and resources available. I’m hoping that as we unschool our kids (our plan at the moment) that we’ll be able to keep up with them and that it will give them the freedom to zoom ahead (or stay behind) as they need to. Best wishes in your decision — knowing he has such a support system behind him will help your son so much!
    Lauren @ Hobo Mama recently posted..March Carnival of Natural Parenting: On invisible special needs & compassion

    • Thanks for sharing your experiences! There are no real gifted programs in this area – just a few field trips on days when there is no school, that I have to pay for. I do hope that I can be thoughtful about this decision, but I know there really is no right answer here.

  7. Pingback: Taking The Time To Really See Our Children | Love Parenting

  8. Pingback: The Emotional Components of Bonding with Preemies | Natural Parents Network

  9. Pingback: What is WRONG with you? The challenges of raising a spirited child | MUMmedia

  10. I think parenting a gifted child, especially as gifted as your son, is extremely difficult and I know that you will face a lot of challenging choices (as well as be challenged by him for your choices). I went to a school where the gifted kids were given more work. My husband actually asked his teacher to move him down a “learning” group because his group had to do more work. Hopefully you can work with his teachers to find challenged but not busy work. Good luck!
    Hannah recently posted..Our rules for NICU – March Carnival

    • I definitely don’t want more work, just more challenging work. I think in a large class, it just becomes so difficult to do that. The only area that is really differentiated is silent reading. That he can do at home. Here’s hoping though!

  11. My little Abbey (3) sounds like she’d really enjoy your boy! A spirited child herself, I can understand your desire to make the *right* choice regarding his schooling. I was placed in a gifted program instead of being put in the next grade when I entered school, and I did well taking advanced classes through my adolescence. Wishing you peace in your decision-making!
    Amy recently posted..Abbey and Evan

  12. Pingback: Montessori-Inspired Special Needs Support |

  13. Pingback: Parenting the Perfectionist Child « living peacefully with children

  14. Pingback: Attachment Parenting and Depression | The Artful Mama

  15. Pingback: ABCs of Breastfeeding in the NICU | Breastfeeding Twins

  16. You have educated so many with this post. We rarely think of brilliance as “special needs” but as you have so eloquently described, it truly is. I wish you peace of mind and the answers you seek. With all of this love behind him, I have no doubt that your son will grow into a well-adjusted, well-rounded young man. All the best to you!

  17. I was a gifted child. My parents did a wonderful job protecting the pace of my emotional maturity, which was on par with my age group, while stimulating my intellectual giftedness, and I am SO grateful. There are many ways of addressing this, and simply being mindful that you need to protect his emotional and social intelligence is half the battle! You will do awesome. You don’t have to do it perfectly, you just have to do it healthily. =)
    Melissa Vose recently posted..Special Needs: Limitation or Liberation?

  18. Wow, what a tough decision. I wish you all the best with making it, and look forward to hearing how your family gets through this. I hear you on not wanting your son to be bored, but I also understand your fears of him being thrust into an environment with older children… Ultimately you know your child best, and will make the best decision, goodluck! 
    Christine @ African Babies Don’t Cry recently posted..How to Minimise the Chance of a {Genetically Prone} Child Being Diagnosed with ADHD

  19. As a ‘gifted’ child myself, I skipped the fifth grade as they said that would do the trick. Thing is, no one thought about the fact that I wasn’t one grade over most other kids, I was several – so all it did was push me into the land of adolescence a year earlier which was horribly strenuous on me, not just because of that but also losing all the friends I had grown up with. So a year younger and no friends and starting middle school – I was set up for a really tough time. And being a child of divorce pulled between two families, I was already feeling outcast. I am jealous, I admit, of what’s available to kids now – they can take community college classes while in school, there are great charter schools, homeschooling is not looked down upon, etc.

    The best thing my parents did for me was to give me the books to keep my mind full. The worst thing they did was to assume that intellectual prowess and the ability to interact with adults well (‘such a mature girl for her age’) did NOT mean I was magically more grown up and didn’t need to socialize. Separating kids out I think is really a bad idea – give them different assignments to challenge their level of learning, but keep them together to encourage diversity and not make anyone feel better or worse because of their pace. It’s just like special ed – don’t separate them, include them. Everyone socializes better without segregation.

    • I was a “gifted child” as well, and this is what makes some of these decisions so difficult. I know that when the school approached my parents about having me skip a grade, I opted not to because I didn’t want to leave my friends.

      I totally hear what you saying about the differences of social maturity. I think that can be very difficult for most adults to understand. Now my question is, how can I make the best of what he needs academically without putting undue pressure on his emotional needs?

  20. Tough decision, but the very fact that you’re aware of the issues and considering them so carefully is a major positive that I believe will lead you to whatever the best possible decision for this situation is.

    One point I did want to make, however, is that you can change your path along the way if the one you pick now does prove not to be the best one in future. So, for example, if you do skip him ahead a year at this point… he can take a year out later on if it turns out he needs to be back with his age mates. The obvious point at which to do this would be between school and college, because, as you say, he may have a much more difficult time going away to college a year early and this way you could avoid that (plus he’d have a year out to work and save up some money, or maybe travel, or pursue an interest – I can tell you from experience that that can be well worth doing for a year between school and university). But you could do it while he’s still at school, though it might mean homeschooling for a year if you don’t want him to repeat a year of school. Alternatively, if you keep him with his grade now you could skip him ahead later. There are lots of permutations and lots of options. Good luck!

    • Thank you for your kind comments, Dr. Sarah! That is a great idea, and I support that for children graduating at 18 too. I think developing a little life experience is such a positive before going to college. There are indeed lots of options and I like that I really don’t have to decide right this minute!

  21. Great article..and you know I am right there with you! It’s such a struggle, but a very unnoticed one. Thanks!

  22. Pingback: Letter from Mineral’s Service Dog « Cinco de Mommy

  23. Pingback: Thoughts on Parenting Twins « Intrepid Murmurings

  24. Pingback: Life With Michael – A Mother’s Experience of Life With Aspergers Disorder | Diary of a First Child

  25. Pingback: How I Love My High Need Baby - GrowingSlower

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