By: Guest Blogger, Alicia Steele
The Military Child: Juggling Special Needs
April is the Month of the Military Child, and I have chosen to write on what is a very under-represented niche in the military community. I have a special needs son, and I feel like nobody ever talks about what it means to have a special needs child while juggling all the other demands of being a military spouse.
Many people get a diagnosis, set up their specialists, and then dig in for a lifetime of trials and tribulations. For us, we get a diagnosis, set up the specialists, and then three years later we run around collecting medical records, getting imaging copied to discs, procuring therapy reports, and packing up our entire household while trying to find a new house in a new state, sight-unseen. When we get there, we have to find all new specialists and start the whole process over again. It can be painful to recount the ENTIRE medical history six or seven (or more) times. To relive the ordeal again and again, which I have tried so hard to move past, can plunge me right back into the dark hole I lived in when I first got the news!
Next there is the doctor that gives some quack answer and you end up having to ask around who the best specialist is (even though you don’t know anyone to ask), set up a new referral, get a new authorization, and make a new appointment for weeks or months later. The process can be completely and totally depressing and infuriating!
Now that I have given you the dirty, negative images of having a special needs child in the military, I’ll tell you how I have embraced it.
We recently completed a terrifying PCS, but now that I have done all the hard work and we are in place I have opened my mind. I was disappointed when I couldn’t find pediatric aqua therapy, but that left a hole for horseback riding therapy which has turned out to be AMAZING and we discovered that my son has a passion for horses. The physical therapy is not what I was accustomed to, but we found an amazing feeding therapist which we didn’t have at our last assignment.
Another aspect I think many parents in my situation can relate to is the idea that my child touches people. His spirit shines through him and when people meet him, their minds and hearts are broadened. The kids at his school are completely enamored with him. He plays on a special needs baseball team and I heard his older (typically abled) buddy telling his friends how cool my son is. I almost look at him as an ambassador. How many more lives will he touch as a military child moving every few years?
I have stopped bumping my head against a brick wall wishing that we could just stay in one place. The very real fact is that we are lifers now. Even if we wanted to get out it just isn’t an option with the cost of health care and the amount of services we require. So, I embrace the process. Three years from now we will pack up and do it all again. But instead of dread, I am filled with excitement to see what new and exciting things we will discover. Who will my child touch this time? Who will we be touched by? Each time we move we expand our child’s horizons and show him that anything is possible. How many more things will he have seen in his young life than his counterpart who is not a military child? Perhaps it will bolster his strength and provide him with the courage he needs to go into this world on his own because he has seen so much of it!
Guest Author Bi0:
Alicia considers herself a Jill-of-all trades. She has no spare time, but she is sure to make time to do yoga and sit down at her sewing machine. She has a 6 and 2 year old, and has been an Air Force wife for 9 years. You can check her out on Instagram and Twitter @twokidsandablog, on Facebook, or on her blog.