Special Needs Parenting — When It’s Okay to Just Be a Mom

It was a Friday afternoon and I had just put Avery down for a nap. It had been a busy morning. We’d been to occupational therapy, speech therapy, and then had a therapeutic feeding session at home. I was sitting down to quickly eat before taking my own nap when our cat started whining. Without even thinking, I looked down and said “Ace, use your words. Tell me what you want.”

Yep, I was trying to be my cat’s speech therapist. These were words that Avery’s speech therapist had been using with her that morning and clearly it made sense to carry them over into our home life . . . with our cat.

It hit me. Not only did I really need a nap, because I was trying to get a cat to talk, but it also made me step back and really think about the time I spend with Avery. I spend so much of it working on the things she’s doing in therapy that I tend to I lose sight of my number one job as her mom: to love her unconditionally, to really be there in the moment as her mom, not her therapist.

Avery has overall development delays due to being extremely premature. She has been in speech, feeding, occupational, and physical therapy for most of her life. I’ve made it a point to learn about Avery’s deficits and know what they are working on in therapy. That way, I know how to incorporate those things at home. But, I often struggle with this. Sometimes I just want to be her mom.

In talking to mothers whose children are much older, or who have other challenges that require them to be in some sort of therapy, I think this is something we all struggle with — whether your child is like mine with development delays, or they have learning disabilities, behavior problems, or anything other “special” needs.

For example . . . 

As a mom, I totally understand her language (mant = fan, boon = balloon, mingo = flamingo, kink = pink). The list goes on, and I think they are ALL adorable. The mom in me wants to comply with whatever she is requesting; as her therapist, I know they are working on enunciation and that I should enforce that at home as well.

As a mom, I want to hold her hand as she goes up and down the stairs; as her therapist, I need to encourage her to do it on her own as she works on her core strength and balance.

As her mom, I want to follow her wherever she goes when she grabs my hand; as her therapist, I know I need to force her to TELL me what she wants, not show me. That’s where the “use your words” request comes into play.

I write this here not because I have the answers, but because I’m hopeful this is helpful to other mommas out there with this same struggle. Selfishly, I’m hoping to hear from you to help validate ME. Surely, I’m not the only one who feels this way, right? Is there a perfect balance?? So much of parenting is so grey.

As Avery’s mom, I want to do whatever it is I can to help her be the best version of herself. And again, I struggle with how to do that. I know that at the end of the day, the MOST important thing I can do is love her unconditionally and make her feel safe. As far as the day to day goes, it continues to be a daily struggle.

The Fort Worth Moms Blog hosts 19 Neighbor Groups via Facebook, including the Moms of Special Needs Tarrant County. These groups are free to join and offer online and offline opportunities to build relationships and gain resources from other moms in the area.


Kelly and her husband, Shawn, are both Fort Worth natives and proud parents to their eight-year-old daughter, Avery, the inspiration behind many of Kelly’s articles. In her time as a mom, Kelly has become an unofficial expert on the NICU, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and global developmental delays. She’s an open book about their experiences and is always happy to talk to other moms looking for guidance or just another mom who gets it. After being in corporate marketing for almost 20 years, craving more flexibility and time with Avery, she founded 314 Marketing Solutions (www.314marketingsolutions.com) in 2019, a full-service boutique marketing agency. She considers herself an expert in multi-tasking and counts her car as the main headquarters for her business, regularly switching being a special needs mom driving to and from multiple therapy appointments, activities, and business owner.


  1. The struggle of mom vs. therapist is real. And in a few years, you’ll throw the teacher role in there, too.

    I struggle a lot with TIME when it comes to Carly. We only have so much of it in the evenings, after school and work. Do we do PT or OT exercises? Do we work on reading, writing or math? Do we tackle learning to ride a bike without training wheels? Let’s not forget that some nights are dedicated to swim lessons or tutoring. Oh, and then there are life’s basic needs like bathing and eating. So when does she get to just be a kid? And how much time do I allot to that?

    A good mother is a combination of all those roles – a mom, therapist, teacher, friend, counselor… You are an incredible mother, Kelly. Avery is lucky to have you.


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