Having special needs kids adds an extra level of stress and hardship to a family. It simply isn’t easy when you have kids that require a little bit more help than others. Add military life onto that and sometimes it can feel like too much.
We didn’t know we had special needs kids when my husband joined the military in 2005. Our son was 13 months old and it wasn’t until he was about 2.5 year’s old that he was diagnosed as developmentally delayed. We were in Germany at the time and my husband was deployed.
Our 2nd little boy was diagnosed with Asperger’sat the age of five in 2012. We were at Ft. Campbell when this happened.
I am not sure what we would have done if we had known we would have two special needs kids during our time as a military family. Would we have decided it would have been too stressful? Would the benefits we knew we would receive cause us to join anyway? It’s so hard to say.
Over the years I have experienced what it is like to solo parent with special needs kids, to have to figure out who can watch my son when I don’t have family close by and how to make it through the unpredictability of this type of life with kids who don’t quite understand what is going on. It’s difficult and even though my husband is not active duty anymore, I am still trying to figure it all out.
When you do have special needs kids in the military, you need a good support system.
You will need people in your life you can call and depend on. Some days will be very difficult and knowing you have someone to call, even to just talk to is a must. If you don’t know anyone local, find someone you are close to that doesn’t mind a phone call every now and then. Just talking to someone who loves you and your children can help you get through a difficult period. Stay away from people who are just going to judge you. They are not worth your time and you shouldn’t spend too much energy worrying about what they are doing.
When you are married to someone in the military, there will be times that you have to be a solo parent, special needs or not.
It is so important that you take care of yourself during this time. Look and see what they have in your community or what you can do to help yourself. It might not be an easy thing to do and each person is going to have to figure it out but is so important. Even if it means taking a bubble bath after all the children are asleep, or binge watching a tv show or going to get coffee with a friend when everyone is at school. Find something to help you focus on yourself, even if it is just for ten minutes a day. You are a caregiver and all caregivers need breaks now and then.
You also need to make sure you are receiving the right benefits for your child. I was so thankful that when my son was first diagnosed with Asperger’s that we were able to start ABA therapy right away. This is a very expensive therapy but luckily Tricare paid for most of it. You need to be aware of changes with health care for your special needs child. They don’t always cover everything you need and sometimes you will have to fight for it. Sadly, some military benefits get taken away and that can hurt your special needs child.
Find other moms of special needs kids to connect with, either in person or online.
Being able to talk with others trying to raise their special needs kids in the military lifestyle is going to be good for you. You can vent together and help each other out. Some people know more than you do about the hurdles you might have to jump over in order to get what your child needs. EFMP, ABA, IEP, 504, etc, there are so many terms that are hard to understand. Talking to others who have been through it can help you understand more about the special needs military world and can become your support system.
Don’t let having special needs kids scare you if you are also a military spouse. Know that you are not alone and there is help out there for you. Know that you will have challenges but you can make it, one day at a time if you have to. Don’t forget about your own needs and find some good friends to support you.