Sick Special Needs Kid Woe: Special Needs Living

mother child handsCafeMom aurorabunny is back with another edition of Special Needs Living.

aurorabunny's 3-year old son Brody was diagnosed with classic autism at one year, falling on the severe side of the spectrum in terms of development. At present, Brody is still mostly nonverbal, using a few words, sign language, and PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) to communicate.

Each week, aurorabunny discusses the everyday struggles and triumphs of raising a child with special needs and an invisible disability.


When Kids with Special Needs Get Sick by aurorabunny

Before I start, let me say that I know sick kiddos aren't exactly a picnic for anyone.  However, when kids with autism or other special needs get sick, it can be an entirely different ballgame. 

This time of year is always particularly nerve-wracking for me because when my son gets sick, he often regresses on skills that he has learned, loses language sounds, and can be generally out of whack and off his routine for weeks as a result of even a mild illness. The best way I can explain it is to tell another mom to remember back to what it was like to have a sick newborn. 

I can definitely tell you that I never wish that my son could speak more than the times when he is sick. What hurts? How bad does it hurt? It's all just a big frustrating guessing game. Since we can't communicate about these kinds of things, the next logical step is for me to judge how my son is feeling based off of his attitude and behavior. Unfortunately for many children with autism or sensory processing disorder, they don't necessarily feel things the way that we do. Brody could be in fairly severe pain, and I wouldn't have any indication unless I had actually seen him get hurt. Again, FRUSTRATING!

And forget about traditional sickness comforts and remedies. Although this doesn't apply to my son (who is no longer a picky eater), many children with autism wouldn't touch a bowl of noodle soup or a glass of ginger ale any day of the year, let alone when they're under the weather.

Learning how to blow your nose, cover your cough, or to get sick in the toilet instead of all over the sofa are all skills that may come much later to children with special needs. We won't even talk about how things might end up going if your child with special needs gets sick enough to require a doctor visit. Doctors never seem particularly thrilled to hear, "He has a really bad cough...oh and he might totally flip out if you touch him, look at him, or speak to him." (The portable DVD player has saved our lives in the doctor visit department!)

I hope I've been able to give you a little peek into why some moms might be a little more germaphobic than you might think is necessary. At my son's new school, I have been recently introduced to parents of children with serious physical disabilities; something as small as a cold could potentially put their kids in the hospital. These families make me realize that we are really pretty lucky. Despite the havoc that Brody's illnesses wreak on our lives and schedules, I'm thankful that he at least has the immune system to fight them off.

So don't automatically judge the next time you see a tot being slathered in Germ-X on the playground; the seasonal hazards of colds and flu take more of a toll on some of us than others.

How do colds, flu, and illness affect your special needs child? Whether or not your child has special needs, do you have any special tips for diagnosing or dealing with sick kids?


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