The “Special Need” for Technology
Can I take a minute to share with you a very candid and personal testimony of what it’s like to be a special needs parent? You see, my oldest child, Elijah, is diagnosed with ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, and high-functioning autism. On top of that, he is also has a life-threatening allergy to peanuts, tree nuts, legumes, and tomatoes. Each one of those diagnoses is incredibly difficult but when you put five of them together, it’s often times overwhelming. I want to be sure to mention, though, that Elijah is incredibly brilliant child. He excels at problem solving, creativity, jiu jitsu, and so many other things. He is by far the hardest working child I know and has really broadened our outlook on life in so many ways. Plus, he’s one handsome dude (said from his proud momma.)
With that said, I don’t want to sugar coat the road that we have walked to get to where we are today. It’s been hard. Really hard.
- Recognizing your child is “different” from other children.
- Struggling with their constant emotional outbursts, sensitivities to food/textures/light, and very specific routines every.single.day.
- Spending thousands on different assessments from various professionals to figure out what exactly is “wrong”
- Finally getting the correct diagnoses and then having to accept what that means for their future
- Let’s not forget, grieving the dreams and expectations you had for that child
- Working with your spouse or partner who is going through their own grieving or even denial
- Sorting through all the different therapy and schooling options to determine what exactly is best for your child
- Picking up extra work and jobs to pay for all the different therapies (speech, occupational, ABA, and special schooling)
- Convincing your friends and family that you’re not the worst parent in the world and actually doing your best
- Racking up $50,000 or more on therapies a year on your insurance and having to worry that you may lose your job over it
I could go on and on but you get the point… the journey is hard and exhausting. Parents of special needs children deeply love their children and will go to tremendous lengths to provide every opportunity for them. However, they need and deserve breaks to refuel.
To give you an example, there was a stretch of two years where my husband and I were alternating taking Elijah everyday to a specialized private school here in Houston. We would start our day at 6am and drive an hour (each way) to school. Immediately after school, I would rush him to his ABA therapy, which was another hour long round trip. Since it was far from our house, I would wait around with my younger son for two hours until Elijah was done and make it home around 7:30pm every weekday evening. Oh, and by the way, private school and therapy were NOT cheap. So, to pay for these costs, I started my own business so I could work from home around his schedule (mostly on weekends and nights.) As you can imagine, our entire family was physically, financially, and emotionally exhausted. We knew early intervention was key for helping his long-term success, though, so we were willing to make these sacrifices.
I wish I could say that our family is unique for a special needs child. The truth is, we are the norm. Parents of special needs children are some of the most sacrificial, loving, and patient people I know. They are humble, giving, and will do anything for their child but many times, they are tired. This, along with so many other reasons, is exactly why I‘m SO passionate about developing applications to help families have more independent and convenient tools available to help children like Elijah.
BUT…. how?? Currently, I’m working on Advokid, an application that teaches autistic and ADHD children social skills. The goal is to create something that utilizes advanced technology, state of the art graphics, high customization, and a low-cost to the parents. It’s a win-win for the parent and for the child. The parent can use the application from home (no more driving around everywhere) and the child gets effective treatment that’s actually fun!
Technology is ever changing and has the ability to truly make in impact in this space. For whatever reason, companies have not given much attention but it’s my hope to bring awareness to an industry that is begging for help. I hope you will join with me on this journey and we can make a difference together!