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Lessons Learned

September 10, 2015
Maria Smaldino Spencer , MOV Parent

I've been a special mom now for almost thirteen years. I've grown into a mom that is stronger and more effective than if my daughter was never born. I take pride each and every day that she has molded me into the person, mom and wife that I am. She has overcome so many obstacles-too many to count. As I observe her amazing abilities, I am in awe of how much I've learned.

When you are in survival mode in the beginning of special parenthood, it's almost impossible to see the light. You don't see anything except getting to the next thing that may help your special child; while attempting to understand this new, unfamiliar world you've entered. But in those first stages, there are glimpses of hope, even if you don't realize it. There are things that you take charge of without thinking about it-because you are a Mom. It's just an instinct you can't deny-even though you never anticipated this world you've entered. Hope is what holds you in these days.

I've learned that things that used to be "stressful" aren't so since she came into my world. Before you become a special parent, the smallest, everyday things were stressors. But now you see the world differently. Priorities have been set. You've entered a state of the "new normal" and keep your eyes fixed on the positive things in your life. You save your energy for the things that matter most. This new focused lens you see your world through is your only option. This is a great baseline to live your life from. Your child has taught you to focus on the things that truly matter.

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I've learned that my daughter is my greatest source of strength. Think about it, you do everything you can each and every day to make sure your child has his or her needs met. You drive to the appointments,answer the doctors' questions, go to the school meetings. YOU have no choice but to keep moving. So where do you get the energy? I'm sure you know your answer-your child. Your child has become an endless well of strength and courage for you.

Our kids have made us who we are. They have taught us life lessons that cannot be learned in a textbook. My prayer this month is we will recognize the hope, focus and strength our children give us.

Maria Smaldino Spencer is a special mom, special needs consultant and a center supervisor administrator at CDI Head Start of Mahoning County in Youngstown. Contact her at



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