I’ve been really hesitant to write this post. First, I hate to jump on a bandwagon. I also hate being late to a party, even a pity one. Mostly, though, I do not ever want to come across as ungrateful or one that complains.
Truthfully, I have absolutely nothing to complain about. I am beyond lucky. I acknowledge that my situation is as wonderful as it is rare. I have a terrific village who supports my sanity. When life gets overwhelming I have some one within a text, an e-mail, a call or a walk to lean on. I get date nights with my husband and girls night in.
Not everyone is this lucky. They are isolated. They stay at home with their child, change how they go to Worship, do not attend family events, cannot find a babysitter and not even think about getting a pedicure. Moms like Kelli try to do everything right. They think that it is less disruptive for their child to stay home. They feel family gatherings are too hard to keep everything together and peaceful.
I do not know Kelli and only know about her circumstance from Julie, Jill and Kristi’s blogs. But I do know that not every child is like Boo. Some children with special needs are violent. They hurt themselves and those who love them the most.
When Kelli tried to kill herself and her daughter there was a lot of condemnation. People have a difficult time understanding suicide. Let alone a mom who tries to harm her child.
The sad truth is, Kelli is not the only one out there. Statistically children in the US with special needs account for almost 10% of those who are abused. And they are abused by their caregivers. This is not just the US. World-wide disabled children are harmed more often than typical.
This is just supposition on my part, but I believe the abuse and the killings and the suicides happen because the parent has little or no support. We are very lucky where we live. Our Boo has a terrific school, afterschool therapies and if she was autistic we would be eligible for in-home support. But those therapists and teachers deal with our children hitting, spitting and hurting them. Yet they love our kids. They want our children to succeed.
Parents and caregivers are becoming the walking wounded, suffering from post-traumatic stress of living and working with a child who punches, kicks, sets fire to the house and destroys relationships. We love our children. We hate what their disability makes them do.
There is a difference.
There is also a reason why persons who work with children and adults with special needs have an extremely high burnout rate.
While our children in the US have a tremendous amount of government support available (if you know where to ask) for them, there is zero support for the caregiver. I am not talking about financial. I am talking about emotional support. That shoulder that you need to lean on.
Since I have that support I know full well what those of you without it must be feeling. Know that you are not alone but you have to let us know you need it. My friends know because I go to them. I break with Boo’s therapists and vent to her aides. Sure a few will reach out, but the responsibility is mine to say I cannot do it on my own.
So I implore you, the Kelli’s out there, to know you are not alone. But you need to scream and raise the white flag.
And if you know a parent out there with a child who has special needs reach out. Stop by their house tonight with a pizza and a bottle of wine. Stop by and check in on them. Keep inviting them to events, even if they have to say no. Remember that e-mail is great, but you can hide there. Call, speak to them. Make sure they know you are available to listen without judgment.
Let what happened to Kelli be a lesson to all of us to reach out before there is no one there to catch.