kids

'My son with additional needs was "too much" for school. This is the reality of being his mum.'

The author of this story is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons.

I have a child with additional needs. Specifically, he has Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). 

It sounds so neat and tidy when you put it like that, but it’s not. Not even a little bit. 

He is so smart and beautiful and loving. But he is also violent, self-destructive and oppositional. 

Watch: Carter's Story. Post continues after video.


Video via SDN.

This year, after a particularly bad start to the year (including a few fisticuffs and a running home from school incident), I made the difficult decision to move to distance education – turns out he’s just a square peg in a round hole, and that makes him ‘too much’ for the school.

So now the explosions are all for me! The difficult days, the sitting on the upside chair with a stool on his head refusing to do work and then using a hand puppet to bark expletives at me. 

It's me who tells he hates. It's me whose things he bites in half, that he breaks, that he throws around the room.

But at night, after all is said and done, he cups my face in his hands and says "sorry mummy", and for a few short moments it's all worth it.

He was diagnosed with ASD1 in 2019, and it’s been an uphill battle. Psychiatrists, psychologists, alternative medicine, GPs, podiatrists, OT, chiro... I don’t get any help. Not from Centrelink, not from child support, and nothing from NDIS. 

His father spends his days abusing drugs and surfing the best wave, or writing about how he is a good father on social media. He pays me the generous sum of $36 per month in child support. But he wasn’t always like that. He used to hold down a job and own things – but I suppose providing for a child is just too much for him.

This year, they increased my son's diagnosis to ASD2, and suddenly there came an opportunity to apply for the NDIS. The bill to get the documents I need to apply just keeps rising. I have to keep a roof over our head. I have to manage my own three jobs, plus distance education, and there are no alternate weekends in this scenario – it’s just me.

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Additionally, I need an English and maths tutor. He attends drums and keyboard, footy and martial arts because I know these things are essential for his development. He also goes to a weekly homeschool group (which costs $85 for five hours). A lot of the mums look as tired as me. We just nod at each other. I don’t think any of us has the energy to talk - we're too busy fighting to keep our heads above water.

It’s not all bad though, honestly. My kid is the smartest, funniest tornado you could ever meet. His heart is in the right place, and regardless of the fact that some days I feel like I am stuck in an abusive relationship that society would shun me for leaving, I love him fiercely.

Listen: On this episode of No Filter, Mia Freedman is joined by Melinda Hildebrandt to talk about what parenting is like when your child has special needs. Post continues after podcast.


I suppose most people are waiting for the tidy finish to this article that one would expect. But the truth is, there isn’t one. My life isn’t tidy. It's not rounded at the edges. There's a lot of mess, arguing, half-done homework, unwashed hair and the odd wine on a Wednesday when I should probably try to meditate instead. 

But that is my life. And it’s the life of so many other mums around the world with special needs children.

If nothing else, having this kid has taught me to reach out to other mums when I see them struggling. If you haven’t lived with a special needs child, you can never know the challenges or the rewards that come with it.

I suppose if I am to leave each of you with one thought, it's just to be kind. Be kind to the mum of the naughty kid. The mum whose kid keeps putting things in the trolley and she keeps wrestling them off him. The mum whose kid pokes her belly, or maybe the kid who has an outburst at school over what seems like nothing. 

It's likely they’re doing their best, and they probably don’t need your judgement, because believe me – there is no greater critic than us to ourselves.

If you, or a young person you know, are struggling with symptoms of mental illness, please contact your local headspace centre here or chat to them online,  here. If you are over the age of 25 and suffering from symptoms of mental illness, please contact your local GP for a Mental Health Assessment Plan or call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14.

Lifeline Australia - 13 11 14 - Crisis Support. Suicide Prevention.

Kid's Helpline is also available in 1800 551 800.

The author has created a Facebook group for discussion and support, you can check it out here.

Feature Image: Getty.

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