6 Honest Moms Reveal What Raising Kids With Special Needs Is Really Like (PHOTOS)

Judy Dutton | Sep 15, 2015 Being a Mom
6 Honest Moms Reveal What Raising Kids With Special Needs Is Really Like (PHOTOS)

honest body project special needs What's it like, really, to raise a child with special needs? To find out, Natalie McCain asked six mothers to tell their stories and be photographed with their kids. The results are an inspiring photo series titled "Defined By Our Hearts," the latest installment in McCain's Honest Body Project where moms tell it like it is.

"I called this series that name because children with special needs are so much more than their disabilities," explains McCain. "They are strong, amazing warriors that have beautiful hearts."

For a rare and candid glimpse of these moms' experiences with their kids, check out this slideshow and hear their stories.


Image via The Honest Body Project

  • Jillian


    "Jillian was born in 2011; she looked like my other babies. Then life changed when doctors told me she had Down syndrome. I'd had all these hopes and dreams of the 'perfect' daughter, but at that moment, I was unable to see her perfection. Then a nurse told me, 'Treat her like your other babies; she is more like them than she is different.' By the time she left the room, I knew that I was going to make it through. Fast forward three years and Jillian is a smart, beautiful, determined, kindhearted, and fun-loving little girl. She has taught me that perfect is what you make it. I no longer see the Down syndrome. I just see Jillian."

  • Tommy


    "By the time my son Tommy was 10 months old he wasn't reaching any milestones. After countless tests they had a diagnosis: Infantile spasms, caused by two strokes that occurred in utero. It felt like a bus hit me. Well, 10 months later Tommy still has his spasms, and [is] being treated with three different anti-epileptic medications. If we don't find a 'cure' for his spasms, then they will progress. But if I had the chance to change what happened to him, I wouldn't. He has taught us so much more than we could have ever learned on our own. He's taught us to appreciate all the little things because some people will never have them. He is my perfect angel and I will never ever stop fighting for him."

  • 'These Is Nothing Wrong With My Son'


    "Our 2-year-old son has right hemiparesis (a type of Cerebral Palsy) due to an in-utero bilateral stroke. He is not walking yet. He has no words, though he does understand almost everything we say to him. But there is nothing wrong with my son -- nothing. When a parent has never experienced having a child with special needs, I think they tend to feel sorry for those of us that do. I will tell you very clearly, do not pity us. There is something magical about watching your child meet a milestone that many thought he wouldnʼt. I promise you that we are all the same when it comes to loving our children. We think our child is perfect."

    More from The Stir: 7 Inspiring Photos Highlight the 'Super Powers' of Special Needs Kids (PHOTOS)

  • 'I Worry About Them All The Time'


    "At 3.5 our son was diagnosed with ADHD and autism spectrum disorder; at 5.5 our daughter was diagnosed with PANDAS, which means when she gets sick she starts having behavioral issues like verbal tics and rages. I worry about my children all the time. I am confident they will grow up to be functioning members of society, but I worry about how difficult the road getting there will be since they are different. Some days are awful and I want to curl up in bed and cry. I remind myself that things could be much worse."

  • 'The What-Ifs Can Eat You Alive'


    "When my unborn son Eli was diagnosed with Down syndrome, the world crashed around us. My husband and I went through a long grieving process for the son we thought we were having and moved toward the son we were going to have. But when Eli arrived, he was a superstar from the get-go and we were completely in love. Sometimes I look at him and I'm filled with sadness that his life will be 'different' and 'difficult.' But Eli is exactly what our family needed, a bright spot to the beginning and end of our day. My advice is don't be scared of the 'what ifs.' They can eat you alive. You will get through it, but at the same time it is okay to have moments of weakness. Look for those support systems that can help you stay sane but be careful of Google! You become the expert for your child. Don't doubt yourself." 

  • 'She Can Do Everything, Just Differently'


    "At six months one of our twin daughters Bethany was diagnosed with hypotonia, which is low muscle tone. As she developed she encountered many more hurdles with her physical limitation, but with the help of physical therapy was able to catch up to her sister. She will never be an athlete but she can do most things other kids can do, sometimes just a little differently. Even though her hypotonia makes her tire quickly when running and jumping with other kids she never lets it stop her. If she can't do something she just says, 'Someday I will get it, Mom.'"

    More from The Stir: Mom Turns Kids With Special Needs Into Superheroes in Breathtaking Photos

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