What’s the Hardest Part of Being a Special Needs Parent?

Robert Rummel-Hudson has written about what he feels is his duty to his special-needs child: to be an “overbeliever” for her. But the hardest part about being her father is facing her limits, or even admitting they exist.

Being an “overbeliever” is believing in the future of your child — trying to accomplish more than the experts say is possible.

I’ve written many times about my duty as Schuyler’s parent to be an overbeliever for her. I still think that’s true; indeed, I hold that to be an essential truth more now than ever before. I find that if I believe Schuyler’s capabilities reach beyond what we can see in the now, the rest is likely to follow. There was a time when we were told that Schuyler would never be able to write, or use a high end speech device, or even attend school, for that matter. Trying to accomplish more than that was considered overbelief by the physicians and educators and therapists in her life. It’s tempting to say that it’s a good thing we didn’t accept those limits at the time, but honestly, it wasn’t even a choice. When your parental instincts call bullshit on expert opinions, you go with your gut. If you’re right, boo-yah. If not, you regroup and you go on.

However, overbelief is not the same thing as denial.

She’s at the point in her life when telling her she can do anything if she tries hard enough and be whatever she wants if she does the work, those stop being encouragements and become outright lies. When Schuyler hits her limitations now, as a young adult, we compensate, and we quietly take note, and we move on.

It’s hard to admit that she has limits. It’s hard and it’s heartbreaking, and it feels like a betrayal. But we still believe, and occasionally we still overbelieve, and we quietly begin to build the adult that she will soon become, one with limits, but one who is nevertheless extraordinary beyond imagining.