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BY Jennifer

Special needs Parents: Don’t forget about your spouse

The month of February is the month of love. Here is a beautiful love story. 

A couple fell in love, got married, and was blessed with three beautiful children.

Their first child was born with special needs.  They cried and prayed together inside hospitals surrounded by the new people they were meeting.  They worked to have this child included in life in places where their child would have typical learning experiences and a life of possibilities.

The bills of therapy sessions that were not covered by insurance started coming in.  One parent took a leave of absence from her job to care for this child.

Don’t forget about your spouse

At one of the therapy sessions, a speech teacher asked the parent, “Are you and your husband still going out for dates?”  It seemed like a ridiculous question because of course there was no time or money for this.

How are we doing as a society supporting the love stories of the people around us?  This speech therapist reached out to our family with a suggestion.  I took her advice and put my husband and I back in the center of our home.  I had not realized that we had slowly started making our children and our ‘special situation’ the primary focus of our lives.

Working Together

My husband is my partner and friend.  The job of raising a child with special needs requires many “experts.”  However, we signed up for this together.

I meet well-meaning mothers that are the experts in every aspect of their children’s lives.  After all, it has been my experience that one spouse takes over the primary role of getting the child to the many appointments.  Over the years our daughter has participated in ongoing speech, occupational, and physical therapy sessions.  In addition there are several doctor appointments.

Many days it seems like it would just be simpler for me to “take care of things” on my own without involving my husband in the decision-making.

Daddy Dressed Her

A turning point…One day I complained to my mother-in-law that the outfit that my husband dressed my daughter in looked like he had closed his eyes before reaching in the drawer for the outfit.  She said, “Well, she is his daughter.  Maybe today it will look like daddy dressed her.”  Our daughter is 50% of my husband–shouldn’t she reflect this too?

Today, my daughter’s science project was an empty bag and the project was left on the counter at home.  Previously we had agreed that my husband would be responsible for this project –so I did not “double-check” it.

The lesson we reinforced–My husband can help with a great science project and take it to school when it is forgotten.  I stay strong in my belief that my children are a reflection of us both ( I forget things too, but since I write the blog they are not mentioned).

Making Joint Decisions

Decisions should not be made between you and other people (therapists/doctors) without including your spouse.  It’s okay to say, “Thank you for the information.  I am going to discuss this with my spouse and then let you know what we decide.”

  • Encourage your spouse to occasionally attend a therapy session and a doctor appointment.  This shows the clinician that your child has a supportive family and it helps your spouse gain first-hand knowledge about what your child needs.
  • Allow the therapists and doctors to speak directly to your spouse without interrupting.
  • If you attend an appointment without your spouse, keep them up to date about what happened.

Our love stories are unfolding with each passing day.  The challenges you face with a child with special needs provide opportunities to grow closer together.  Encourage the people around you to strengthen their relationships as they help one another thrive.

By: Jennifer Greening.
Jennifer will be leading a 3-part workshop addressing school inclusion. For more information click here.

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Written on February 10, 2012 by:

Jennifer Greening, Ed.S. is the author of Opening Doors, Opening Lives: Creating awareness of advocacy, inclusion, and education for our children with special needs. Her book is used in university classes across the country. It received positive reviews from the Autism Society of Michigan and was awarded 2010 Best Books Award Finalist by USA Book News. Visit her website at

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