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Ten Great Things About Adopting a Child with Special Needs

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Sure, you're taking on a lot when you adopt a child with identified special needs. And there are plenty of people who will tell you all the hard and bad and worrisome things about that. But here are 10 things you should also consider -- the upside of special-needs adoption. They're shared with a little humor and a lot of heart, just what you'll need to survive as a special-needs parent.

1. No surprises: You know from the start just how bad it might be.

Many parents adopt a child they think is perfectly healthy, only to find out down the road that there are serious problems. Adopting a child with identified special needs lets you hit the ground running.

2. Most special-needs parents don't have social workers coming by with suggestions.

Follow-ups and home visits may seem invasive and unnecessary, but since there's no getting out of them, use them to your advantage. See if you can actually get some useful advice on where to find services and support.

3. No guilt that your personal genes or prenatal care caused your child's problems.

Skip right over the grief or shame and go directly to getting the appropriate diagnosis and help.

4. Exempt from one-upmanship contests at adoption agency reunions.

You know those moms: the ones who are so invested in getting a perfect baby that they practically launch into a chorus of "Anything yours can do mine can do better!" You can sit out that competition, smug in your grasp of the important things in life.

5. Stick it to the insurance company!

Think of all the benefits you would have wasted if you'd adopted a healthy child! Might as well take that HMO for everything you can get.

6. If you get to the end of the day and everybody's alive, that was a good day.

Perhaps at one time you had goals for yourself -- exercising, reading, losing weight, getting your offspring ready for a good Ivy League college. Adopt a child with special needs, and your priorities will change for the simpler, pronto.

7. Typical child development? BO-ring!

Most moms just learn about whether to feed a cold or a fever. You'll learn enough to qualify you for a life experience degree in pediatrics.

8. Good chance that your child won't "get it" when people are rude about adoption.

"What happened to his real parents?" "Do you have any children of your own?" People say the darnedest things about adoption, often right in front of your child. If your child has special needs that affect her communication skills, she'll likely remain blissfully oblivious. (You should be so lucky.)

9. People will be under the impression that you're a saint -- HA!

Oh, sure, you'll want to set them straight, and swear that you're the blessee, not the blesser. They won't believe you. If only they knew!

10. Medical bills? Costly. Making a difference in the life of a child? Priceless.

If you want a perfect baby to complete some vision you have of your ideal family ... then, come to think of it, you probably shouldn't adopt at all. But if you want a truly transformative experience that will change you and your child into a new entity altogether -- a real, working, struggling, striving, conquering, all-for-one one-for-all team -- consider adopting a child with special needs. You'll make an enormous difference for your child, and your child will return the favor.
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