If you have a child with a disability and are active on Facebook, there’s a good chance you may have seen a meme about parenting a child with a disability going around. The meme, titled “A Special Needs Parent Fell in a Hole,” briefly details how different professionals or agencies fail to support parents of kids with disabilities and who steps up to provide real support.
The Mighty was unable to find the original creator of the meme, but it appears to be based on an image shared in 2016, called “An Autism Parent Fell in a Hole.”
The meme reads:
A Special Needs Parent Fell in a Hole
Family member: What hole?
Boss: Oh that’s a shame. You can take the day off.
Doctor: Can you keep a diary of your experiences in the hole?
DBHDD: We will assess the size of the hole. However, it may take up to 18 months.
Local authority: Sorry we don’t have enough money for a ladder.
Charity: Here’s a form. Fill it in to apply to get on the waiting list for a ladder.
Another special needs parent: I’m here! I’m coming down there with you. I’ve been here before. I know how to gee out and I won’t let you do it alone.
Related: How to Choose the Right Mobility Aid
It is no surprise parents of kids with disabilities identify with this meme and are sharing it on social media. As the parent of two children with disabilities, I know I personally relate. Indifference, long waitlists, lack of funds? We have faced it all.
While family can be supportive, they can also be the source of harsh criticism. It is not unusual to hear of family members who blame a child’s condition or behaviors on “bad parenting.” Comments from people who are supposed to love us and affirm us tend to hurt the most.
Keeping a job when parenting a child with a disability can be challenging. Some parents have to quit their jobs, or they lose their jobs when their child’s complex medical needs mean missing work more often than they would like to. While some employers can be understanding, the support they provide may not be enough.
For many of us, getting services for our children means we will be placed on long waiting lists. When we lived in Wisconsin, it took almost three years for my girls to get into a waiver program. I have heard of families in other states waiting up to nine years!
A state or county’s funds often determine how many people can access services or what type of services will be available. It is a waiting game, and no matter how obvious the need is, there is no guarantee our children will get access to what they need in a timely manner. It is especially challenging as we see funding reduced and programs slashed.
So who do we turn to? Other parents. Parents who have been where we are, who can offer direction and support. Parents who can lend a listening ear and who “get it.” Parents who can offer suggestions based on their experiences. Our tribe.
It is no wonder many parents of kids with disabilities will say one of the greatest gifts their child has brought them are other parents.
These parents remind us we are not alone, and that makes all the difference.