Special Needs Parents Need Friends by Ellen Stumbo

Did you know that many parents of kids with special needs feel lonely?

Because of their children’s needs, some special needs parents feel isolated. That birthday party everyone is invited to? Maybe the child has significant sensory processing issues and cannot handle the noise or large crowds. That Bible study at church that takes place during the children’s  program? The special needs mom needs to stay with her child because there isn’t a trained volunteer to help with her child’s needs. That playdate at the park where the moms chatter while the kids play?  Not gonna’ happen! Most likely the child needs help to climb on the special equipment, and there goes the adult interaction.

Parenting a child with special needs can be exhausting. Sometimes, it is easier to stay home. The thing is, special needs parents need friends. They need someone to talk to and someone to laugh with. God created us to be in relationships, we are not meant to do life alone.

What can you do to reach out to a special needs parent?

First, get to know her family and her child with special needs. Can you babysit for an hour or two so mom and dad can go out on a date? Maybe a late-night-date after the kids go to bed?

Initiate the relationship. You can ask, “I would love to get together with you, is there a time or day that works for you?”

Plan playdates around the abilities of the kids with special needs. Maybe a playdate at a park won’t work, but the special needs parent might have some suggestions for fun activities that work for her family.

Call. Just pick up the phone and call. It is amazing how something so simple makes such a big difference. Let your friend know that you are available to talk. And you don’t have to talk about special needs! Just chat about the weather, about the conversation you had with your brother, or about the embarrassing situation you had at the store. Just be a friend and reach out.

ellenstumboEllen Stumbo is a writer and speaker. She is the mother of three daughters: Ellie; Nichole, who has Down syndrome; and Nina, who was adopted and also has special needs. She is wife to Andy, a pastor.

Being a Friend

Here are some more suggestions on mom friendships from Jennifer Holt, a supplement to our May 2011 article, "Looking for a Safety Net?"

Make the time to develop and nurture female friendships. The best way to make a new friend is to be a friend.


  • Send encouraging notes. A verse, a text, an e-mail, or even an occasional greeting card can help you bond with a friend.
  • Find a women’s Bible Study group. They will be your prayer partners in any season, and the forum lends itself to “bonding time” already.
  • Meet at a local fast-food playground or park midweek to share ideas with someone old enough to appreciate you!
  • Start a playgroup or join a Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group in your area.
  • Plan a regular girls day/night/weekend to be with those who make you feel like you’re not alone.
  • Find a common interest. Do you know someone who likes to hike, scrapbook, paint, or read? Take a class, read the same book, or plan a trip together.

What other suggestions do you have for keeping up your friendships (with moms or otherwise)?

Photo used with permission of Flickr Creative Commons. Click on photo for source.