This post is dedicated to the special needs mom in the therapy waiting room.. I see you. I am you. And you are not alone.
One morning, not so long ago, I found myself in yet another special needs therapy waiting room, waiting for yet another evaluation for my almost-five-year-old son. Our oldest son is diagnosed with a mild to moderate form of Autism. He does not yet speak, and on that day, we were being evaluated for ABA Therapy. We had heard amazing things about ABA therapy, which is what brought us to this particular waiting room.
As I looked around, I thought… the waiting room for any kind of therapy or medical appointment can be an emotionally charged place. But the waiting room for a special needs therapy center? This room has seen every emotion on the life spectrum.
If these walls could talk…
Certainly, if these walls could talk, my goodness the stories they have seen unfold. There would be the lowest of the low moments. And simple everyday routine moments. Shouts of joy and cheer as you celebrate a major accomplishment for the day. This room sees laughter, nerves, exhaustion, fear, anger, temper tantrums… you name it, it’s there.
For a special needs parent, there’s a lot of reality sitting in this waiting room. You’ll see some kids that are seemingly so much farther ahead of your child and that will make you envious. Then you’ll see other children that might be much farther behind your child, and it will make you grateful for where you are.
There is a very common bond.
Most importantly, some kids might be almost exactly where you are, but no two children are the same. But there is ONE thing is the same for everyone in this room. Every person in this building is there to help their child and you are all commonly bonded.
So, here you are sitting in the waiting room. Maybe it’s your hundredth day being here and you are an old pro. On the other hand, it could be your child’s first session of this therapy and you have more butterflies in your stomach than your child does.
It could be that you are at the very, very beginning and you’re here for an evaluation to see if this is the right therapy for your child and you’re so anxious you could barf. I see you. I’ve been you.
I am you.
Consequently, that particular morning, it was our evaluation day. Evaluations aren’t new to us, we’ve completed at least a dozen by now. I’ve filled out a literal mountain of paperwork for each new office we have visited. So, this should be easy breezy. Right? We are old pros! Right? No need for worry and tears. Right? Right… sniff sniff… right?
It’s still so hard. It’s never a good time to sit and have someone tell you the areas of development where your child is behind. But, you must. You can’t hide from it. The important thing to understand is… it’s going to be hard. Above all, don’t have any expectation that it will be easy. How would it be easy? This is your baby.
As time has passed, I’ve learned there is nothing to do but feel your feelings and walk straight through them. What you MUST learn to do is harness those feelings and emotion and redirect them as far as you possibly can in a positive direction. And keep doing that every single day.
Any parent worries a LOT.
To clarify, I think you are exactly where you should be in the parenting world when you are worried. It just comes with the job. Worry keeps you on your toes. Sometimes that means you are the parent that stays up late researching new ideas and tactics to help your baby get the best leg up possible for their needs. Sometimes it’s just worrying that you are teaching them to be good little humans. But the worry? That means you are paying attention and you’re doing it right.
So, back to the evaluation day.
So, back to being the special needs mom in the therapy waiting room. I’m a ball of nerves, but I’m trying super hard not to let that show. Of course, I’m nervous for my child and how the evaluation will go for him. I’m nervous for myself and just praying for the strength I need so I can get MY game face on so I can give HIM the strength HE needs for his tests. Will the tests go ok? Can he calm down enough to show the therapists what he can really do and not do? Will he even qualify for this therapy he really needs? What if the health insurance won’t cover the therapy like the pre-authorization says it will.? Can we cover the costs of the therapy if insurance doesn’t?
There will be answers to all these questions. One at a time. Panicking about all of them at once isn’t really going to help anything. (I am literally the pot calling the kettle black right now… I have no room to judge.)
After evaluation day…
The nervous feelings at the beginning a new therapy or even if it’s simply just a new therapist don’t go away no matter how much experience you have under your belt. In short, new is new, and you are always worried about how your child will adjust.
However, what does happen is you realize that, with time, the transition will get much easier as the days progress and you will settle into this new routine. It’s ok if it takes your child several sessions or even several weeks to make an adjustment to their new routine. You aren’t doing anything wrong and neither is your child. Give the time… some time. You’ll both settle in before you know it.
And one more thing about this waiting room:
Here’s the most important thing I’ve learned so far in this special needs parenting journey; While you are in this room sitting and worrying, take a good look around that waiting room. You are among people that understand EXACTLY how you feel. As a special needs parent, that’s not always easy to come by. Moreover, all these people had a first day of evaluations and therapy, too. These parents are in the trenches with you. These are your people, your tribe. And that is precious.
So, make friends with these parents. Their kids have similar issues to your child. They get it. They get you. Everyone here has their bad days and their good days. They have seen it all too. Look to them for questions and assurance. They’ve been there and they are likely so very happy to help. This is a support network to help you thrive as a parent.
And my particular tribe? These folks are just outstanding people. They get just as excited as I do for a new accomplishment for our son. And I’m the first to cheer for their kid’s accomplishment too. They are comfort and inspiration, wrapped up into the package of friends.
When You Are the Pro In The Room…
Down the road when you are the old pro in the room, make sure you always say hi and offer a reassuring smile to the new mom and child there for an evaluation or their first day of therapy. They are having a tough day, and you’ve been there. Maybe offer a word of encouragement if you see your fellow mama struggling. Keep tissues in your purse always. Go out of your way to offer smiles and words of understanding to the people you know have just had a horrible session. A kind pat on the arm can comfort for days.
So, to the special needs mom in the therapy waiting room… please keep in mind while you are in that waiting room, you aren’t alone. You are surrounded by understanding and experience. Draw some strength and reassurance from that and keep your chin up. I’ve been you. And I know for sure… you’ve got this.
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Recommended Reading for Special Needs Parents:
- Living a Happy Life with a Special-Needs Child: A Parent’s Perspective
- Becoming a Seriously Happy Special Needs Mom
- Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving
- Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism
- Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew
- How to Comfort Your Friend When Tragedy Strikes
- Overcoming Overwhelm: A Mommy’s Guide
- Seasons of Mommy Friendships
- Save Your Sanity By Waking Up Early In The Morning