Worst Advice/Best Advice for “new” Special Needs Mom

At work everyone in my department knows of my son’s diagnoses.  Not that I would have ever kept it a secret but I couldn’t if I had wanted to.  Coming in late and leaving in the middle of the day frequently in the past made it pretty obvious something was going on in my life.

Over the years I have helped other special needs moms at work navigate through diagnosis, treatment, and school issues.   It is really a shame that it has to be so hard.  But I am glad that I have been able to help so many other parents.  Sometimes they just need someone to bounce their thoughts and decisions off of.  Sometimes they just want to hear my story or share theirs.

Recently a new person started in our department and soon confided in another co-worker that she was having issues with her son.  The other co-worker told her she should come talk to me.  The one day we had a pretty brief conversation about her son.  All she told me was that her son was eight and seemed to be struggling with recently moving and with living with family members while they looked for a house.  She said he was really struggling and starting to be a discipline problem.  She was questioning ADHD and wanted to know where to start.

Unfortunately at the time I was in the middle of changing psychologists so I was not able to give her a specific name of a psychologist.  I had given this co-worker the name of my son’s neurologist but it was a far drive for her and she wasn’t ready to pay out of pocket for a full blown assessment at that time.   I told her if she was just having suspicions that something was wrong she may want to mention it to their current pediatrician just to see what they think.  I know feel horrible because apparently this was the worst advice to give.

She updated me that her pediatrician diagnosed her son with Oppositional Defiant Disorder after only a brief discussion.  She said she read about the disorder and did not think it described her son.   I told her she should get a second opinion and she told me she has another appointment scheduled with a psychologist.

I explained to her that a psychologist had mentioned the diagnosis of ODD with my son once but had said it was too early to diagnose that because they needed to work with him for a while first.  Um, yeah!  I explained to her that behaviors are a way to communicate and that prior to making any diagnosis they should figure out why he isn’t agreeing to do certain things.  There could be so many reasons and to jump right to any diagnosis without working with a child is just so upsetting.

I clearly am not able to diagnose but at this time I felt I had to ask for more details.  She explained her son argues about getting dressed in the morning and he said he only wants to wear a certain type of shirt.  So then I started asking questions about his sensory issues.  She then shared that he covers his ears a lot.  Well doesn’t that sound familiar!  I explained that if he is having a sensory processing issue the wrong shirt could feel like sandpaper.

I ended the conversation telling her I would bring in a book about being a special needs mom.  I told her that no matter what diagnosis her son ended up with she would be able to handle it because she was his mom.  I told her that no matter what it would all be okay.  I think that was the best advice I could give.


  1. You gave her great advice. She is lucky to have you to help guide her through the process.

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