Dear Special Needs Child, The World Has Failed You

“An Open Letter to my Oldest Child,

I have failed you.

And, for that, I am deeply sorry.

This feeling has been brewing for a while now.

I’ve watched you struggle for a few years now.

I’ve tried everything I knew how to help.

I do not have all the answers.

Some days I don’t even know the question let alone the answers.

I attended an IEP meeting today.

It was the first one in a long time.

We withdrew from the public school rodeo a little bit ago.

After 6th grade, you have bounced around from school to school.

They all failed you.

It was exhausting and defeating for us both.

So, I pulled you from school.

We tried to homeschool.

Again, I failed.

By luck and divine intervention I purposefully purchased a home in a district that could help you.

A district willing to help you.

For real help.

As an action verb.

Not just on paper.

So we returned to the IEP world, today.

I listened for over an hour of how far behind you are.

Of how and where you struggle.

Things I already know.

Things I’ve tried to fix.

You don’t fit into a box.

You’re far from cookie-cutter.

These are the BEST parts of you.

But, they’re also the hardest.

The world has failed you.

Broken systemic systems.

Black tape.


You’ve been failed by it all.

Including me.

You see the hardest part of being an adult and being a parent is that people expect us to (have it together) because we’re adults with children.

And, some people do have it together.

But, some people are big full-sized traumatized children stuck in survival mode trying to work it all out.

Parenting was easy at 19 when I had a newborn.

Feed him, bath him, hold him.

No matter what else was going on parenting wasn’t hard.

Parenting was easy at 21 with a speech-delayed toddler receiving early intervention.

Who doesn’t love and want to help a gorgeous toddler with a few delays?

Parenting was easy from preschool disabled through elementary school.

There are so many services and supports.

Then they end.

The services and supports end.

And, middle school is hard.

As I grew up and became a full-grown adult with a full-time job and career and other kids parenting became harder.

Parenting through a divorce, addiction, death, homelessness, multiple moves, financial struggles… parenting through life is hard.

These little humans expect us to have the answers.

And, we do the best we can and try.

But, often our answers aren’t right.

And, we don’t know they’re not right until they fail and when they fail –  our family and our children have been failed.

My failures as a person, as a human trying to figure life out and heal and function and grow, my failures have directly affected my children.

Probably the little ones, too.

It’s just too early to tell.

But, my oldest, absorbed the biggest impacts.

He is ground zero.

The largest nuclear fall-out shrapnel struck him.

And, for that, I am so very sorry.

To end with the very very best, ‘Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.’ – Maya Angelou

I’m trying to do better.

I promise.



This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jacqueline Waxman of New Jersey. You can follow her journey on Facebook. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more from Jacqueline:

‘He’s out of control. You didn’t discipline him and now it’s too late.’ I bought into what everyone else was saying.’: Mom urges ‘special needs behavior cannot be fixed with traditional discipline’

‘You’re the parent who tries everything and gets nowhere, but still doesn’t give up.’: Woman pens ode to parents of children battling mental illness

‘You asked me this morning, on your birthday, ‘Why did those people blow up New York?’ I was unprepared for this moment.’: Mom shares open letter to 9/11 baby

‘We can bring your Leprechaun trap a day late, okay?’ I see the disappointment in his face, pull over, and ugly cry as the mom guilt sets in.’: Mom shares important reminder ‘we’re doing the best we can’

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