First Things First

I am honored to have my essay appear today on the series First Things First, part of Hartley Steiner’s special-needs parenting website, Hartley’s Life with Three Boys. Hartley works tirelessly on behalf of her children and all kids with special needs, writing and speaking publicly about raising children with differences ranging from sensory processing disorder to autism to bipolar disorder (check out her picture book, This is Gabriel Making Sense of School).

Most of the writing that you see on my blog and website is about childhood gender issues. But there’s another aspect to my parenting life and my writing that I’ve written about less often, but that is equally important: raising a child with special needs. Many gender-nonconforming kids also have other special needs, as I explored in the post Pink Orchids. Sam is gender-nonconforming, but also struggles with sensory, mood, and sleep issues. All of these things add to Sam’s burden, and affect our whole family.

First Things First will feature a new writer each month exploring how parents find the time and energy to take care of themselves, so that they can be there for their children. Self-care is especially important for parents of special-needs kids, whether those needs are physical, emotional, cognitive, or social. The essay series is a testament to how much love these special needs kids receive, and also to parents who know that to take care of their kids, they’ve got to take care of themselves first.

And I hope that it will encourage you to take care of yourself, too. Read my First Things First essay and let me know what you think.




  1. Patricia Eskovitz says

    What an amazing and wonderful essay, Sarah! I cried through reading it and am astonished by your strength, courage and expertise in dealing with your son and his many difficult to deal with issues. Your sensitivities and creative ways of handling major traumas are very unusual and special and should help other parents of special needs children in their quest to achieve normalcy for their child. I hope and pray that you and your children achieve success in obtaining all the happiness and peace you obviously deserve. Kudos to your writing abilities too!

  2. shoffman says

    An anonymous commenter writes:

    You are so right. Since my older son started exploding and therefore having special needs in school, and we found out my younger son is very gender nonconforming and probably shares my bipolar disorder, and I’ve still been trying to keep my intense job, I’ve developed multiple additional chronic illnesses and ended up in the worst depressive episode of my life. Every confrontational IEP meeting (that is, all of them), reliably triggers depression. I haven’t figured out how to not be dragged down by it, but I’m sure you are right.

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