Introduction: How old are you? What do you do? Tell us a little about yourself. Hey everyone. I’m Erin a single parent to one child named Liam, age 7. I am 27 years old and I work for a non-profit agency in Brooklyn, NY helping families stay together. I’m in my last year of graduate school getting my Masters in Social Work.
“I’m in my last year of graduate school getting my Masters in Social Work.”
How many children do you have? How old? What is your child’s diagnosis?
My son Liam was diagnosed with ADHD in January 2015 and Aspergers in February 2016.
How did you feel when your child was first diagnosed?
Since Liam was age 3, I felt like there was something going on however I couldn’t pinpoint it at the time. I did begin counseling with him at that age to confirm or not if there was something that may be a concern in the future. There were feelings of sadness however after a while I just wanted to do whatever was needed to help my son.
“Being a part of a group where not only do we have children that need additional assistance but also we are women and single doing all of this ourselves!”
Did you find it difficult to get the support you needed at the time? Is it still difficult to find support now?
Being that I was a young mother, my family felt like I was being too hard on my son when I would express my concerns and look for guidance. So it was a struggle. Only until roughly a year ago did they begin to acknowledge what I’ve been saying for the past 3-4 years about my son’s behavior. It has been difficult to find support in terms of mental health services because Liam’s prior therapists would just talk about how cute he was and how smart he is but not really addressing my concern. Something that I see and have to experience every day.
I’m very happy I found this group for single moms with children who have special needs because although I am still navigating Liam’s mental health to find an accurate diagnosis, the group organizers, Deborah and Shay, have been so very welcoming and supportive of my son and I. Being a part of a group where not only do we have children that need additional assistance but also we are women and single doing all of this ourselves! Having our skype calls monthly are a breath of fresh air for me since I barely have time for myself as I’m sure they struggle with the same thing. It’s always nice to check in with each other just to receive additional positive energy.
What do you wish you had or known when your child was first diagnosed?
It would’ve been nice to have the support of my family (there’s so very little of us anyway lol) however by going through this journey and also through the work that I currently do, I learn more and more about my son, resources available and a possible diagnosis.
As a single mom with a special needs child, how are you typically treated by other people?Typically people see my son and say how cute he is, how smart, ask his age etc… but then over a period of time when they see that he is very talkative and won’t sit still, the stares come and the little smiles and offering of candy. I’ve been isolated by people in my life when I first had my son, so to have a child that is very impulsive and talkative can add additional isolation or stares. I’ve gotten use to this. I just don’t like the stares.
“I’ve been isolated by people in my life when I first had my son, so to have a child that is very impulsive and talkative can add additional isolation or stares.”
Are there assumptions that people would make about you or your family because you are a single mom?
Yes, there’s a lot. I look young to begin with so when some people find out Liam is my son and not little brother (smiles) the next question is always how old are you and how old is Liam (like I’m not supposed to know they’re trying to figure out how old I was when I gave birth). So once I answer they’re silent for a second (figuring out the math). Then look and say “oh”. I’ve gotten questions of do we live in a shelter or how do I pay my rent or did I ever finish high school and so on. Then there’s the father questions or statements like “yea men are deadbeats” etc. In all honesty, it was my choice to no longer have my son’s father included in Liam’s life because his father is severely mentally unstable and it was greatly impacting my son and his emotional state. I’d love for his father to be around and hang out with Liam etc but then if I have to be the therapist due to something Liam’s father may have done or said and Liam didn’t understand it, it’s already gone too far. Life is already a difficult place and if I can prevent additional hardship for my son, in anyway, I will.
Are there assumptions that people would make about you or your family because your child has special needs?
Of course! Don’t you love those people? (smiles) People feel like as a single mother I’m not doing enough, I don’t care, I don’t discipline my son, he needs a sibling, he needs a father figure, he doesn’t care, he’s not listening. All of these assumptions are myths because the one thing we know about children is that they listen and will imitate their environment. I have no control over my son talking as no one has control over us as adults when we talk. I have no control over my son’s impulses but since I know it’s a concern I know to keep a special eye on him at all times.
What are your biggest fears as a single mother with a special needs child?
I just want to be able to give my son the best care he can possibly receive. My biggest fear is that as he gets older being in school, teachers, students and other school staff will make fun of him and hurt his feelings due to his impulse concerns and non-stop talking (this has already happened and I addressed it but was highly upset at these adults). As any other child, Liam is very sensitive and of course wants to fit in, so feeling like an outcast over something he has no control over at this time and having to deal with those emotions is a big fear for me.
“Well since joining this group and knowing there are other mothers I can always talk to that will understand the ups and downs of having a child with special needs and then trying to still have a life and career themselves is a great plus for me.”
Off the top of your head, what do you feel would help you the most in your life right now? Well since joining this group and knowing there are other mothers I can always talk to that will understand the ups and downs of having a child with special needs and then trying to still have a life and career themselves is a great plus for me.
Do you have any advice for other moms that share similar stories? In a way you’re an expert at this.
Regardless of age, how many children you have, whether or not you’re working etc., you are your child’s BIGGEST advocate! They love you and look up to you in every way possible. At times life may seem like a big black cloud that won’t go away no matter what you do, but please please please hang in there! We’re all here for you and understand that life isn’t as simple as people may think and we understand that!
If you’d like to share your testimony as a fierce single mom caring for special needs children, please contact NYC Single Mothers with Special Needs Children at firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a message through our meetup group.
Your honesty and courage will shine the way for women.