A few months ago, Barbara Levine won this book in a contest that asked Can Mom Be Calm? readers to share their marital advice. With her humble and generous spirit, Barbara graciously accepted my invitation to write a review of one of the few if not the only book on the market that discusses marital issues as it relates to raising special needs children. Thanks Barbara for sharing your valuable insight! – Jenn
Book Review by Barbara Levine
If ever there is a book that validates the stresses and strains that we all feel raising special needs children, Laura E. Marshak, PhD. and Fran Pollock Prezant, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, in their book Married With Special Needs Children: A Couples’ Guide to Keeping Connected have done exactly that. They validate what we all know to be true – raising special needs children takes lots of time, energy and definitely makes it necessary to work harder on our marriages/relationships. The good news is this: With hard work and a conscious effort, our relationships can thrive! So will our kids. It’s all in our perspective about the situations we’re in.
When we first learn that our dear children have challenges, our world stops for awhile. The authors really emphasize that we all need to allow ourselves to go through the grieving process to deal with the fact that our children have differences that require special help to allow them to adapt to the world they live in. This grieving time can last as much as two or more years. The confounding factor is that you and your partner are probably going to cope with it all in different ways and be at different places during the process of grieving.
Again, the good news is that this is NOT unusual nor is it bad. The work we have to do is to be able to realize that even though our journey of grieving may be different; we can still share that journey with our partners. The biggest point I learned from the authors is that each of us has to be willing to adapt to which stage of grieving we are at and our partner is at so we can be supportive for each other.
Another message: Compromise, compromise, compromise! Furthermore, the authors advise you not to feel critical of yourself if you decide to seek therapy in order to get things on the right track.
Our kids with special needs require a lot of our support and energy. Sometimes we can then lose sight of what the center of our marriage has to be – our partner first, then our child. That outlook keeps our marriage centered. I found the advice and vignettes of the couples interviewed for this book encouraging.
Let’s face it . . . there are just those times when we’re too tired to think about ANYTHING. What is important, the authors write, is making some time during the day to let our partner know how important they are to you, even if it is expressed non-verbally. For example, make your partner’s favorite meal. Feed the kids early and get them settled so you can share this special meal as a couple. Set aside one night a week as “date night”. It can be as simple as popping a movie into the DVD player and sharing it together.
Positive attitude is essential to making things work. The couples interviewed for this book that were most successful in their relationship were those who could find at least one positive thing to focus on regarding their situation.
Let’s also recognize there are times when we DO fail in our relationships! Sadly, sometimes the stress of raising special needs kids puts such strain on a marriage that it doesn’t survive. The authors then stress that it is important to be able to maintain a relationship with each other that is healthy for the children. This is especially important with special needs children who most often do best with stability and consistency.
This book is an excellent source of ideas for keeping marriages and relationships together despite the pressures of raising a special needs child. The overall message: it is possible for a family to thrive. I highly recommend this book as a tool for making our marriages and relationships healthier and more fulfilling.
Here's another challenge! To win a copy of this book, answer the question: What is the one best thing that helps you and your spouse get closer together? Simply write your submission into the comments section of this post but make sure you include your email address in your submission. If we get a substantial number of comments, then it will be readily accessible in the "Readers Give Advice" section on the front page of this blog. If you experience technical difficulty or don't want to put in your email address for public viewing, you can email your submission to me at firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as you put in your submission and you will still be eligible to win. Just know that your winning submission will be highlighted in a future blog post but you can still remain anonymous. Please send your submission by Saturday, July 11, 2009 11:59 PM. Dr. Marshak will be choosing the winner and will be providing more books so we can have more winners. Good luck. I hope we can all help and learn from each other.
Photo: Barbara Levine lives in