What I want you to know about adopting a special needs child

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is by an anonymous writer.


Shortly after our son came home from Africa at 8 months old we knew that he was not neurotypical, but we didn't know to what extent. We had him evaluated for early intervention services for the first time within his first month home. We were told that his behaviors-biting, hitting, eating vomit-were probably just part of his being adopted. They were right-eating his own vomit stopped after about 6 weeks. 

Everything else got worse-like so bad that a typical day added multiple bruises and bite marks to our body. I cut my hair with the hopes that short hair would prevent pulling it. We feared for our 2 daughters' safety. We thought he couldn't hear. After multiple appointment he got tubes. He still didn't respond to sounds. He spent most of his days screaming and crying. Even a slight disruption to his schedule (like 5 minutes late to bed) caused him to have meltdowns for days.

We lost friends. I had to double the dose of my anti-depressant. We were unable to leave the house as a family.


At our second eval (when he was 14 months old), we were again told that his behaviors were probably just a reaction to being adopted.

My initial reaction to this was that I didn't care if that was the cause. Our son was obviously hurting and needed help. WE needed help.


We debated what to do next. We started with ourselves. We changed some of the ways we interacted with him. We started to see him respond to his name. We committed to loving him even when he was hurting us. And things got slightly better. But we knew that more needed to be done. Given our socio-economic status, state early intervention would be free. We debated whether being rejected again would be worth it or if we should just try to find a way to pay for private therapies. In the end we felt that, while the potential rejection would be hard, we were willing to try public resources one more time.


The evaluators came into our home, talked to us for 2 hours, called our son a "unique bird" and suggested the exact therapies we were hoping for- speech to help with his communication and occupational therapy to help with his sensory needs. I never imagined that seeking help for our child would be so difficult.

What I want you to know is that YOU know your child best. You aren't crazy. When everyone is telling you that things are "normal" and you KNOW they are not-you are correct. I want you to know that crying over your child doesn't mean you don't love them deeply. Sometimes it means that you love them so much that it hurts to not be able to give them what they need. I want you to know that things will get better. Maybe not fast enough. And maybe you'll need to take medicine to help. I want you to know there is no shame in that. 
Most of all, I want you to know that even if you feel like you are failing, you are doing your best. And, sometimes, that is all you can do.



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