As a music therapist, I always knew I wanted to work with children.

During my education, my practicum supervisor saw immediately how my own energy, enthusiasm, and passion affected my paediatric clients and that I had a natural ability to connect with them. For my remaining placements, I worked with children in various school and clinical settings. I completed my internship at a therapeutic day school for children and adolescents with special needs, which inspired me to establish my private practice specializing in working with children and adolescents with neurological disorders and developmental delays.

When I got married, I knew I wanted to be a mom. I have always loved children and came from a big family, constantly caring for and truly enjoying my time (for the most part!) with my little brothers and cousins.

Never did I imagine that these two roles would collide.

Aside from being owner and director of TPSMTS, I am also a mom to a beautiful, energetic, and vivacious 5 1/2 year old boy who has special needs.

Having a child with special needs has changed me as a Music Therapist.

Playing a dual role, as exhausting as it can be some days, has not only given me insight into my own child, but that as well of the needs of my clients and their parents. I have been lucky that with my clinical background, knowledge, and connections that I have been able to get my son the help and support he needs.

As a music therapist, I can see a client for their session but after, hand them back to their parent or care provider, wishing them a good week.

Aa music therapist, I only get a mere snapshot of what a parent is dealing with 24/7.

As a result of my own son’s diagnoses, I have gained so much empathy, patience and understanding for the families we work with.

I understand the constant fight for school support and government funded services. Our system is broken, and the waitlists for services are extraordinary long.  As parents, the fight is never over – it is constant and you always need to be on high alert to ensure your child is getting what they need and deserve. I understand the motivation of trying any and every therapy in existence, just hoping that something will resonate with your child and help them gain the skills they need help with. The financial expenses incurred and sacrifices made to ensure your child is getting the best possible help can be nothing short of overwhelming. However, you do it anyway for the best interest of your child. It is utterly exhausting and depleting, knowing you have nothing left to give but give it anyway.

I understand the need for respite (and often encourage parents to go and get a coffee while I have their child in a session), the struggle to find time for yourselves, and putting everyone else’s needs before your own, even when you are running on fumes.

I know first hand how hard and challenging it is to raise a child with special needs, and yet at the same time, how wonderful it is to watch your child grow, thrive, and be happy.

My son may struggle with certain things, but he can tell you where any country is on a world map, loves doing puzzles, going on scavenger hunts and playing video games. He can tell you when you sing a note wrong (yes, he inherited the gift of perfect pitch from yours truly) or when you get a complicated math equation incorrect. He can count forwards and backwards in any multiple of numbers you throw at him. He thrives on structure and being at a nurturing small school where he has friends and teachers who go above and beyond to care for him. The academic work he completes is often years ahead of his age. He is always up for snuggling, watching a movie, and being active outdoors.

His schedule is hectic (not to mention costly!), but it is worth the sacrifice to see him getting the help and support he needs, and he continues to progress by leaps and bounds. He is fortunate to have an amazing team of teachers, therapists, and family who along with my husband and I, support him and us every step of the way on this journey.

I embrace my son’s uniqueness that makes him who he is – he is so much more than just a label.

With the struggles also come the moments of sheer joy and sometimes, even relief that in this moment your child is exactly where he or she needs to be. As parents, we do the absolute best we can in each moment and even on days where we feel like we may be drowning, our children love us just the same, flaws and all. As parents, we are constantly a work in progress. We are all experts on our own children and situations, and want nothing but the best for them.

For those of you who may need this message today – you are not alone. I wish for you inner peace amidst the struggles, pure joy amidst the success and progress, and some time for self-care (even if just for 5 minutes) to refuel and replenish to be able to navigate this challenging, yet incredible journey of caring for our exceptional children.

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Author: Amy Tracey

Amy is currently studying Business in Dublin, Ireland and plans to apply for a degree in Social Science. Amy was diagnosed with Autism when she was 20 years old and shares her experience to help others and to raise autism awareness. You can follow her on Twitter @amytracey94