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GuavaGirl 06-30-2014 03:05 PM

Have your family plans changed...
...since having a child with special needs?

I always wanted to have 2-4 kids. I have one child who is 4 1/2 and likely has some sort of high functioning ASD (not yet officially diagnosed but we're in the process). As time went on, after he was born, and my friends were feeling ready for their second (or 3rd) child...I kept feeling increasingly not ready and wondering what my deal was (thinking I just must be bad at this). Looking back, it's obvious that I wasn't ready because my son often requires the effort/emotional energy of 2+ kids and we have no family or long time friends nearby to help out here and there...and we never felt comfortable with babysitters for a few reasons.

Now I'm just so perplexed about our family plans, in terms of having more children or not.

If someone were to tell me that ASD kids are much better off as only children, then I would probably keep my son as an only. I have a feeling it's more of a case by case basis, and that's where I struggle. Since children can take a while and some pre-planning before they get here (either through birth or adoption) , how am I supposed to predict how things will be/feel when my son is a year or two older? I keep assuming things will just get a bit easier as he gets older, but maybe that's not the case.

When I look to the future I think I might regret not having more children. ...and then I also think I might regret having more if it affects my son negatively, in terms of not having the same time and energy to give him what he needs, to help him thrive. ...and then there's the fear of not being able to handle two kids, with one or [potentially] two being high needs.

I'm sure I'm not the only one that has been through this question. I'd love to hear about your thoughts and experiences. Thank you.

Linda on the move 07-02-2014 07:19 AM

I have two children, and the older one is on the autism spectrum. My children are very close in age so the decision that you are facing isn't one we faced. We realized that something was off with DD#1's development when her sister was infant.

This is a very complex question, and while I cannot offer advice, I'll tell you about my experience.

On the question of whether or not things will get easier as he gets older, our experience is that things have ebbed and flowed. Things can be easier for a while, and then very rough again. This has not been a straight line. Even now (my DD on the autism spectrum is in community college) I don't feel like all the difficult times are past.

As far as the second taking way time for the first, he or she will. However, he or she will also add a great deal to your first child's life that you can't. He or she bring typical childhood smashing into the house, which is really good for the child with autism. My second child is absolutely the best thing I have ever given my first. Partly because of what she adds just by being here, and partly because she forces our family into some sort of balance.

Sometimes, the way in which things are difficult is actually really good, because DD#1 hasn't gotten to go through life with every thing centered around her, she had to learn a bit of empathy and patience (not easy things for people on the spectrum). Sometimes, the way in which a sibling seems to be a negative effect in the short run (for example, if a day is rough because autism child must wait while sibling has gymnastics class) helps the child with autism develop into a human being who is more capable of relationships. Look at the big picture. Learning to live with another human who needs care IS helping your son thrive in the long run.

I didn't really see this until DD#1 was a teen. We've met kids with similar diagnosis who are onlys, and they have a harder time with peer relationships because they really do think everything is about them. (All kids with these types of dx's have trouble with peer relationships, its a matter of degrees).

I think that the greater the degree to which you are OK with things not always being about your son, (whether or not you have a second child) the better chance he has for ever being able to maintain a friendship. Having a second child forces the issue on a daily basis.

Another thing, and I want to be careful how I word this. I love both my DDs very much, but my typically developing DD is capable of relationship with me that my sweet daughter on the autism spectrum isn't, and I'm very thankful for that relationship. Very thanking. It's bittersweet sometimes, watching her go though milestones that her sister doesn't (which, honestly, is a little heartbreaking) but I enjoy so much all the regular parts of life. She adds so much joy to our family and to my life.

There have been many, many times that I found my 2 children overwhelming, and that I felt it was impossible to meet both of their very different needs. I've done a tremendous amount of personal growth and yoga. I can't overstate how difficult it was at times.

But I am so thankful for both my kids, and it was worth it.

Mylie 07-03-2014 12:47 AM

My son is autistic and was a high maintence child/teen...I always wanted a houseful of kids but This child had me so exhausted in all ways I felt I was done at the time...By the time I hit my mid thirties and wanted Another child it was too late..

I am raising my grandchuld and she is wonderful and a miracle for me...Even with all her food allergies she is a breeze compared to my son...

So yes while I do Have regrets about not Having Another child I am okay with it...

Linda on the move 07-04-2014 02:57 PM


Originally Posted by Mylie (Post 17750762)
My son is autistic and was a high maintence child/teen...I always wanted a houseful of kids but This child had me so exhausted in all ways I felt I was done at the time...By the time I hit my mid thirties and wanted Another child it was too late..

I am raising my grandchuld and she is wonderful and a miracle for me...Even with all her food allergies she is a breeze compared to my son...

So yes while I do Have regrets about not Having Another child I am okay with it...

I just ran across this study, which showed that couples with a child with autism often choose not to have more children:

mamarhu 07-18-2014 01:27 PM

Slightly O/T, but...

I enjoyed raising YoungSon , spectrum issues and all, that when he was about 11, I became a therapeutic foster parent, specializing in kids with autism diagnoses. In some ways, that was hard for him, but educational, as Linda OTM said above.

In some ways, YoungSon has been easier than my 2 neurotypical kids.

Satori 08-08-2014 04:16 PM

Honestly it has changed my plans. I was raised on only and I hated it. I wanted 2-3 kids of my own. DD#1 came along and shes been a very difficult child. Mental health issues, ASD, Primary Immune Deficiency (in remission yay!) I was terrified #2 would be the same and at that point I didnt really know what was going on with her besides the delays and constant illness. My health hit a point where the dr litterally said now or never for #2 . DD#1 was 5 at the time. I thought hard and decided to risk it. Had I known DD#1 had ASD and her mental health issues which were not dx'd until later im honestly not sure I would have opted to have #2 . My heart is begging for another baby and my brain says "no way in hades!" Both kids are SN and the risk of another is 50/50. Im struggling with the 2 as a single mom. I cant handle another if im honest with myself. DD#1 will be 14 next week and we have even more therapy appts now then we did when she was a toddler. We have no hope of getting out of poverty in the next few years because I have limited work oppertunities due to the kids needs and child care issues. It would not be fair to my current kids or a future child when im already struggling so much:( This is not the life I ever pictured and adding to it would be selfish.
I'm having a bad day so take what I say with a grain of salt. Its been an overwhelming week

sageowl 08-13-2014 04:28 PM

Basically just chiming in to agree with what Linda on the Move said.

Winur1982 08-25-2014 05:41 AM

They absolutely have. Not even just because we feel that it might be selfish to risk another beautiful child, but at the same time, I really do not think that we could handle another child if it has special needs. We are both exhausted with just one. Before I wanted a large family (four or more) but that has changed. I don’t feel resentful about it though, it’s just how it was meant to be.

simonsmama 01-23-2015 11:15 AM

Yeah, my plans have changed. My original plan was to have a large family, with the kids spaced close together. But DD came along, we realized something wasn't right when she was 1 1/2 yo. So we waited. We didn't get a diagnoses for her until she was 4 almost 5 yo. We weren't sure what this meant for the future so we waited. We've had a lot of hard times with DD, she just turned 8 and is finally sleeping all the way through the night regularly, and is fully potty trained (which these two things were a big hit to my energy levels). Now that she's eight, and things are somewhat easier, I think we may be ready for another (8 years later!, lol) But it's such a personal thing, something I had to really search myself about. I wish I had some kind of advice, but in the end, only you can say what you can handle. I wish you luck either way.

bonnietulip 01-25-2015 05:28 PM

I only have one child, and it makes me very depressed to think I may never have another baby. But: note I said "baby". Do I really want two children? What if the second child is autistic as well? What if the second child is even higher needs? I don't think I could handle it. I have health problems of my own. So as sad as it makes me, I think I'll stick with one for now. It's under constant evaluation, however. DH and I are not spring chickens, so the decision isn't getting easier as we get older.

kblackstone444 02-03-2015 07:10 AM

I'm on the fence with this one. I've always wanted a house full of children, as in 8-10 children, but my fiance and I have 5 special needs/high needs children.

S19 has Depression, Anxiety, PTSD and Aspergers.
SD14 has Depression, Anxiety, OCD and PTSD.
SS10 has OCD and Asperger's.
SD7 has ODD and ADHD.
S4 has ADHD and possibly on the spectrum.

While none of them are "severe" disabilities, so to speak, we're almost to our limit with what we can handle as far as giving each child what they need. One more child is likely in the future, possibly two, if we spread it our a couple more years after the older children are more independent, but I'm nearing 40 and I'm aware that the older I get, the increased risk of more severe special needs and I don't want to hit the point where my fiance and I cannot handle all of our children's needs.

cblj31 03-10-2015 06:38 AM

I am the step-mom to a little girl with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy. She needs a caretaker 100% of the time, and is totally dependent on us for care and entertainment. I always wanted 3-4 kids, and although it is draining caring for my step-daughter (but totally rewarding and worth it), I still plan to have 2 kids. We're in the situation of splitting custody with her mom, so while we still obviously face the hardships that come along with special needs parenting, we are in a better position to have more kids.

sillysapling 03-12-2015 08:46 AM

1 Attachment(s)
Our finances have been the big reason for delaying ttc, we both would have liked to start trying in december, but now I'm glad we didn't.

Kiddo's in the beginning stages of treatment for spd, and I truly fear for what would happen if we had a baby now or on the way. He can be so sweet and gentle, I'm sure in time he'll be great to a little sibling, but he's impulsive and rough and doesn't understand enough. He'll knock over furniture, I'm sure he'd knock over a bassinet and try to pull over a crib- especially if there was something as interesting as a baby in it. He hits and headbutts and body slams and kicks and throws, the more stressed he is the worse it gets. And new siblings are stressful. As we learn how to get kiddo what he needs and as he understands more, things will get better, but having a baby right now would not be good. Even on the way would be bad, it'd be a lot of pressure and if he started slamming into or kicking my stomach... :(

He really is sweet and caring and gentle, it's hard to rationalize the wonderful kid he is with the rough and aggressive (100% playfully, too, he's just seeking stimulation and doesn't know it hurts others) kid he is.

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