"Different does not mean bad" – watch these Cork mums talk about having a child with special needs
We all have so many thoughts on how being a parent is going to be before we actually have kids.
I know I sure did.
But parenthood sometimes – often, even – is not exactly what we envisioned. But these four Cork mothers are coming together to show us that raising a child with special needs might not have been what they imagined, but that they are so grateful every day to be the mothers of four amazing children.
"My little boy's name is Riley," explains Nicole Duggan. "Riley is five years old and he is autistic. He is non-verbal and has a lot of sensory issues. But he is also the happiest funniest, most amazing little guy I have ever met. To try to reduce the stigma around autism and onnect with others in the same situation, I started a Facebook page and Instagram page a couple of years ago, and on My Boy Blue I share some of our journey."
Duggan explains that the page has given her and her little boy the opportunity to spread awareness with the support it has gotten and that it has also helped her connect with many parents and fantastic advocates along the way.
"Most importantly, it has given us opportunities to teach people that different is NOT bad. And that autism is not to be feared."
Through Instagram, Nicole connected with three other mothers of children with special needs, who also use social media as a platform to spread awareness of their kids' conditions and how they celebrate each step forward and their journey together.
"I met Lisa Walsh, Orla Brassel and Sharon Myers through Instagram, and the four of us are now great friends and each other's massive support network. And that is something that all mums to kids with special needs need."
Lisa Walsh is mom to Keeva, who is 10 years old and diagnosed with Achondroplasia and they share their journey on their page My Small Wonder.
"Keeva was born 10 year ago into a world that did not fit her from the offset. Our life as we thought back then was going to be a very dark place with no hope and no outlook. Little did we know what joy, what hope, our amazing little girl was going to bring. Keeva has achondroplasia/dwarfism, and having dwarfism comes with a whole lot of challenges medically. So we had appointment after appointment, you name it, until we were introduced to a surgeon, Conor Greene at Cappagh Orthopedic Hospital Dublin, that told us he would make Keeva “fit into a world that was not built for her.” And so our journey began to limb reconstruction which we are currently on...."
Orla Brassel is mom to 1-year-old Harry, who is diagnosed with Down Syndrome and they share their journey on Instagram on their page At Home With Harry.
" It's important to me to advocate for my son in the hope of him growing up in a more accepting society, a society where he is seen as equal,a society where having more does not mean being less, a society that doesnt count chromosomes. my hope is simply for acceptance and inclusion."
Sharon Myers is mom to Noah, who is diagnosed with Escobar Syndrome and is a full time wheelchair user. They share their journey on Instagram on their page Our Wheely Big Journey
"Nothing holds Noah back, his wheelchair is just his way of getting around. We’ve told him that his only limit is his imagination, our only mission is to give Noah and our daughter the best life possible and be a family like any other."
Nicole, Lisa, Orla and Sharon recently got together to make a video of themselves with their children, where they speak of celebrating every milestone, working through the struggles and being grateful for all the happy days (because there are a lot of them!).
"We show our kids just as they are. Happy, funny and amazing. Because our kids are people too. Our three men and little lady are changing the world, one opinion at a time."
The message is as powerful as the women behind it. Different is not bad. We are all just people. And motherhood is motherhood, we all face joys and sorrows and fears. But together we are stronger, better and kinder.
"Autism was not in “the plan," Nicole explains. "It changed my life forever. It turned my world upside down. But I would not change my little boy for the world. I would however change the world for my little boy."