Sunday, June 28, 2009

Book Review and Giveaway: Married with Special-Needs Children

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 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 Cedarburg, Wisconsin with her husband Jay and two children, John, 17, who lives with ADHD, and Clara, 14, who has no alphabet behind her name, but is a typical teen princess! Barbara is also the co-moderator of The ODDParentJourney.Yahoogroup, an online support group of more than 400 members.


Shelly said...

No matter how hard it may be to do this...the one thing that has kept my husband and I happily married is alone getaways. Every year in the fall we take a 4 day vacation to a secluded cabin for our anniversary.

As guilty as we always feel about taking vacation without the kids it's amazing how much a few days of non-stop "couple time" can remind us why we married each other in the first place! said...

I just found out that Dr. Marshak is from our area. It is such a small world.

My hubby and I are fortunate that having special needs kids seems to have given us a united front. I wouldn't say that it has brought us "closer" necessarily. It's more like "well, we have to face this together". We do try to take time for ourselves separately, and that makes us happier together. When he wants to go out with a friend, I always say yes, and when I go to scrapbook, he always says yes. It helps. :)

now you know said...

Respite. Frequently.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I simply do not have anyone to watch our son for date night, let alone an overnight trip.
At some point when our son regressed and we waded through the emotional fallout of the diagnosis, we both sort of looked at each other and said something like this: "Well, he NEEDS us both. Neither one of us would ever hurt him or give up on him. It will take BOTH of us to go ahead with biomed/recovery protocol. So since neither one of us will ever leave HIM, let's put OUR crap aside and face that we are in this TOGETHER and the three of us pretty much are in it on our own. Family isn't going to help, friends have run for the hills. So if we w/o a doubt, not getting out, stuck with each other, we may as well support each other and make this as pleasant as possible."

More so than romantic couple time, we go to our base of friendship and try to support/help each other survive/stay sane/still have a LIFE. We do a lot of family things and make sure the other has time to nap, read, pursue hobbies, have downtime. That is the only way we can show that we care right now, and what we each need more than anything else.

Lisa from SID list

cathe said...

carving out respite time for each other is the thing that helps us the most. we are grandparents of a nearly 6-year-old who has all the signs of SPD and will be evaluated this month. We have weekend custody because our daughter (single mom) works full time and goes to school full time. meanwhile, i live with her during the week and am only with husband on weekends - with grandson! so, i do the spd research; we discuss new stuff i learn as i learn it on phone; on weekends, i get to sleep late while he takes care of J; then we all do something together; then I spend time with J while husband gets some free weekend time. even tho my husband seems like best husband in the world (for 39 years!) J has been a major challenge for us! without the mutual support of alternating free weekend time I don't think we could handle this.

Barb said...

With the tumultous schedule sometimes that is part of parenting two teens, it is very hard to stay connected!

We make it a priority to share at least one meal together -- our schedule usually means it's breakfast. The kids are not up yet, so we have uninterrupted time to chat together, share our daily plans, share a joke to lighten the day and start off with a smile.

Otherwise we enjoy our Deiday night movie date. Pop in a DVD, pop some popcorn and just enjoy a movie together.

It is difficult to carve out time sometimes, but when we do it is really the "fuel" our marriage needs to keep on going forward.