Their Stories / Our Stories is a creative writing workshop specifically for caregivers—so parents, grandparents, family members, and anyone who shares their life with special needs children (of any age).
As a writer, I believe that everyone has a story inside them that wants to be told. But as a special needs mom, I know that we don’t always give ourselves space or permission to tell those stories—we’re busy, we’re tired, we’re focused on others.
My idea with this workshop is to create a safe, supportive space where caregivers can explore writing as a form of self-expression and self-care. It doesn’t matter if you like writing poetry or long letters or just venting on social media… it doesn’t matter if you never tried to write creatively before at all! The focus will be on fun, community, and finding our own unique voices.
Question 2: How do you balance the writer you with the mom you, in particular in deciding how much to share about your child with all the world?
Aah, the quest for balance. It is the eternal struggle! Especially when your child has a diagnosis. Or three.
For me, it’s about triage: figuring out what’s most important in any given moment. I can put down my pen to go to IEP meetings and doctors’ appointments, that’s fine, but maybe the laundry doesn’t absolutely have to get done today. Or this week, even. If I don’t write at least some of the time, I start to feel myself shutting down; I can’t be as good of a parent or advocate for my kids if I’m not tending to my own oxygen mask.
The question of how and how much to write about our children is a complicated one. The simplest answer is it depends: it’s a personal equation that should take into account the family, the child, what’s being written, for who and for what purpose, etc.
When we were first navigating my son’s diagnoses, fighting to get him the supports that he needs, I felt very isolated. We faced prejudice and misunderstanding. There weren’t many people I could talk to, and I had to figure out a lot of things on my own. But I was a writer, and I already had a blog, so I blogged about it. It was a kind of therapy for me, for sure—but I also made a conscious decision early on to chronicle our experiences. I wanted to help educate people who have no clue what this life is like, and I wanted to leave a trail of breadcrumbs for other families going through the same struggles. To that end, it’s always been important to me to be as open and honest about our lives as I can. But I aim to do that without thrusting my kid under a spotlight or a microscope, or betraying his own agency. Again, it’s a balancing act.
Question 3: Why is now an ideal time for Their Stories/Our Stories to be heard?
Today’s sociopolitical climate is one of tension and uncertainty. It impacts all of us, regardless of whether someone close to us carries a diagnosis. That said, special needs families endure stressors and challenges that are unique, often misunderstood or even invisible to the larger community. It’s vital that we communicate and support one another, and it’s vital that we speak our truths. These are things I hope to foster with this workshop. I want to encourage folks to pick up a pen—or a mic, or a soapbox. Whether it leads to changing laws, changing the way society sees us, or just helping someone get through the day, it’s all good. I want people to let their stories out.
2 thoughts on “Their Stories / Our Stories: A Creative Writing Workshop for Parents of Special Needs Kids”
Kudos to you for speaking out and for helping educate people. I had a special needs brother, (Down Syndrome, born in 1949), and know how important this is, how hard it was for my mother. Things have gotten better, but we still have a long way to go.
Thank you, Sandra. It is an important topic for writers to take on.