What Do Special Needs Look Like To You?


What Do Special Needs Look Like To You


What do special needs look like to you? Everyone seems to have an opinion and I have heard it all. As a mom of two special needs children who may not have an outward appearance of having special needs – I hear things all the time…


I hear:

When you are you going to get this fixed?

They don’t have special needs – everyone can get classified as special needs nowadays…

They can walk and talk – what special needs?

and more…


But I can handle these comments – people just don’t understand. What I can’t tolerate though is everyone having an opinion about how I raise and/or discipline my kids.


Because of their special needs, they started horseback riding this year. Sephora started in June and Anthony in August. Their diagnoses’ are very different from one another but both are not as physically apparent. As they get older some of the issues are visible, particularly with Anthony but otherwise they appear to be healthy. Occasionally their special needs cause them to act out, freak out, panic and yes, they are sometimes aggressive. If you get to know them and their issues you learn how to avoid 90% of the issues but occasionally “stuff” sneaks through. And when they do something very inappropriate – yes they do get punished. They do not get off scott-free. They are taught the difference between right and wrong and they are taught how to make it better and sometimes you can’t make it better and it is something everyone has to live with.


Outsiders constantly criticize me for still letting them ride horses and/or compete even when they have had a really bad day/week. However, I was clear when they started riding – I would not take away horseback riding as a punishment if I could help it. 90% of the time I have been able to stick with that resolve regardless of the pressure from others to handle things differently.


There are thousands of different ways to teach children a lesson – isn’t that what it is ultimately about? Riding horses is not just fun and games – though that is definitely part of it. It is about bonding with other people and animals; it is about caring for animals more than yourself; it is about putting their needs first; tuning in to their feelings; it is about responsibility – you have to work to have the fun – even when you are so exhausted; it is about understanding the horse cannot be left without human interaction for long periods of time – they need my kids; it is about cooperation; it is about building the kids’ self esteem and helping them realize they CAN do things and can do them well… Why would I take that away… Part of their struggles are their inability to focus and they are too impulsive. You have to focus on a horse, you cannot be impulsive on a horse and as they ride more and more their behaviors at home and school are improving – so again, why would I take that away…


So this weekend the kids had a horse show – it was Sephora’s third show and Anthony’s first. Many felt I should not let her participate after the day she had at school on Friday. Yes it was a tough day – without getting in to the details I will say it was a tough day at school because the adults let her supports fall out of place and she couldn’t handle it. Yes her behavior was not good and the result was definitely not good. But had she had her supports like she does every day – it would have been a very minor issue. Imagine being starved – you are so hungry – and normally a huge plate of food is put in front of you with appropriate utensils and you just go ahead and eat. Nothing unusual happens – you do what is expected. But what if you are starving, the huge plate of food is placed in front of you without utensils. You are told you can’t eat it without utensils – but you are starving. At some point you are going to inappropriately eat that food – with your hands, with your face – who knows but that food will end up in your belly. How can you get punished for eating it?


Either way – yes she is getting consequences and in her world they are significant consequences… BUT I did not take away the horse show, just the practice the night before. And if people don’t like it – TOUGH! I am not going to crush their spirit and their souls; I am not going make them feel worthless. I will teach them right from wrong and I will teach them that there are consequences…


As a result – they did compete in the show today. Sephora earned 3 First Place ribbons and Anthony earned 2 Fourth Place ribbons and a Third Place ribbon.


What Do Special Needs Look Like To You?


Anthony is on Ben and Sephora is on Doc.


What Do Special Needs Look Like To You?


Sephora in full uniform – she just got the shirt, jacket and boots – she is styling.


What Do Special Needs Look Like To You?


She is so proud of her brother for even trying to compete.


What Do Special Needs Look Like To You?


Waiting for the results


What Do Special Needs Look Like To You?


Anthony in action


What Do Special Needs Look Like To You?


Sephora in action


What Do Special Needs Look Like To You?


Waiting for a turn and watching the younger group


What Do Special Needs Look Like To You?


Even just waiting for her turn is a huge accomplishment!

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15 thoughts on “What Do Special Needs Look Like To You?

  1. maria @ closetohome says:

    what a great story to share about special needs can find success too. I love that they have found something they enjoy and that they can call their own.

  2. Tiffany (NatureMom) says:

    I think you made the best decision. When they face so much already in their lives, why take away that bright spot where they get to feel special. You just can’t. I have two boys on the spectrum and some say I am way too easy on them. The odds are already stacked against therm, I will not crush their spirits to appease other people. I just won’t.

  3. Tina says:

    As a parent of a child with special needs I can relate. You stand firm in what you know is best for your children. Please don’t let others tell you what you should be doing with your kids. I am glad they were able to attend the show.

    • Athena says:

      I never really understood just how much they would learn – and not just in an academic sense. Horses have changed all of our lives and they will always be a part of it.

  4. Amanda says:

    I’m sure that riding horses is both therapeutic and a great lesson in responsibility too! I agree that certain things shouldn’t be used as punishment, unless the situation is dire. I’ve certainly never considered keeping my kids from their sport due to behavior. Sports, like horseback riding, are a commitment you can’t just not do- that’s part of teaching commitment!

    • Athena says:

      Very true. I remember getting into my share of mischief as a child/tween/teen but my parents never took sports from me. Plus in teams it is just not right to impact the entire team – it sends the wrong message.

  5. Censie says:

    People need to really open their eyes – it makes me so angry at the opinions and things people say sometimes. I love that you are advocating for your family. YOu know best. Keep doing what you are doing and I love seeing those happy faces!

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