"Hurray for a book that makes special-needs parenting sound like something you can survive, even thrive with! Informed by a survey of over 500 moms who shared their worries, joys, tips and tricks, this book offers practical advice on topics as far-thinking as securing your child's financial future as right-now as finding a good babysitter."
-Terri Mauro, About.com's Parenting Children with Special Needs, specialchildren.about.com
Read the entire review here
Read an interview with author Amy Baskin on the blog BLOOM, Parenting Kids with Disabilities
Article from the Toronto Star, April 6, 2007:
It's not unusual for Lillian Wagman to start the day at 5:15 a.m., when one of her two sons arrives at her bedside, wide-eyed and ready for action. From then until she hits the pillow again at night, the North York mother is lucky to get a few straight minutes to herself.
If you're a mom, you know the feeling. But for Wagman it's magnified, because Michael, 8, and David, 6, have autism. They are energetic and engaging, but require one-on-one monitoring. Two adults have to be on hand 'round the clock. There is therapy seven days a week, school, appointments and constant outings to the mall, library or park to keep them busy. Meltdowns aren't uncommon. Meals have to be on the plates before the boys get to the table, apples chopped just so, bread in bite-sized pieces. The ringing phone can cause a scene.
Wagman and her husband haven't gone away overnight for five years. She takes her daily shower on her way home from work at her mom's place, where no one will follow her into the bathroom. She's a proud, devoted mother. But her own needs are at the bottom of the list.
"It's always, `I'll cut my hair next month, I'll buy a blouse next month,'" says Wagman, 45. Even thinking about it provokes guilt. Shouldn't that time be spent with the boys, that money on extra therapy?
That phenomenon, a way of life among parents of kids with special needs, is something Amy Baskin wants to bring out in the open. The Guelph mother and co-author of the 2006 book More Than A Mom: Living a Full and Balanced Life When Your Child Has Special Needs is running a workshop this Thursday at Bloorview Kids Rehab in Toronto. Her goal is to get parents talking about a neglected issue: Themselves. And to introduce them to others facing similar struggles and share strategies.
"There's a feeling that if it's about us, then it's not about our kids and that makes these parents feel guilty," says Baskin, who has a teenage daughter with autism.
But there are risks if mom and dad don't pace themselves for what is often a lifelong caregiving role. Risks to marriages, other kids in the family, friendships, physical and mental health. "This is a marathon, not a sprint," warns Baskin.
More Than A Mom co-author Heather Fawcett says it's common for parents to spend all their energy seeking treatment for their kids, researching therapies, and living in the moment, lurching from crisis to crisis.
"Really, how often do you ever sit down and have a discussion about your own issues, and how you feel about the future, and the toll this is taking," says Fawcett, who runs workshops in her hometown of Ottawa. "But when you do, parents are so grateful."
While there has been little attention paid to parents' needs, there's no shortage of interest. Baskin expected 15 or 20 to attend her recent workshop in Kitchener. But 100 showed up.
About one in five Canadian families has a child with special needs such as a physical disability, chronic health issue, mental illness or a behavioural disorder. For parents, and especially mothers, the implications are huge--for employment, finances, physical health, social lives and stress levels.
Baskin cites a recent study showing that 12 per cent of mothers with kids with chronic conditions said they were in very good health, compared with 40 per cent of moms overall.
"You forget to eat, or you neglect your own doctor's appointment when you would never, ever miss therapy for your kid," says Sandy Jardine of Kitchener. "You say, `In a couple of years, I'll be able to take care of myself.'"
The problem is, by then it could be too late. And if mom falls apart, there's a risk the whole ship will go down. Jardine says she has already adopted tips from parents at one of Baskin's workshops. She swallowed her guilt and hired a babysitter one evening. She wrote a wish list of things she'd love to do. She tries to set aside at least 10 minutes a day for a conversation with her partner that's about them.
Baskin says the overwhelming message from the 500 mothers interviewed for More Than A Mom was how much their children had enriched their lives and made them better people. But she adds it's hard to appreciate those gifts when you're in the middle of it, feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and lonely.
Jardine says taking time for yourself has a trickle-down effect on the child with special needs. "We're not taking anything away from our child by doing that. We're adding."
"Find a child with special needs and you find a mom who must fill many roles and become an educational, legal and medical expert. By necessity she becomes More Than a Mom.
As parents of children on the autism spectrum, authors Amy Baskin and Heather Fawcett understand that 'extraordinary parenting responsibilities can create extraordinary pressures.' They have drafted a blueprint to help moms not only cope with daily demands but reach for greater fulfillment in life.
Do you need to set goals or write a resume? Need inexpensive ways to have fun? Can't find services or a caregiver? Gridlocked in school negotiations? Just turn to one of the worksheets or lists and let them guide you. More Than a Mom is filled with practical tools ranging from taking care of yourself to planning for the future. Readers can find a section that meets their needs and jump right in.
The information is woven together with research and personal experiences that affirm the challenges of parenting a special needs child. These statements brought an unexpected comfort to my spirit and a breath of new strength."
-Autism Asperger's Digest, May/June 2007
"While there are innumerable resources for parenting children with special needs, and resources about lifestyle issues for parents in general, it is rare to find a work devoted to the balance between both these issues. Amy Baskin and Heather Fawcett both have children with autism-spectrum disorders. Ms. Baskin specializes in Special Education and writing about disability issues, while Ms. Fawcett chairs a parent support group of over 400 lay and professional persons. They combine these skills and perspectives in More Than a Mom, a useful resource for parents in general and a very useful resource for parents of special needs children.
More Than a Mom provides a practical perspective on self-nurturing while doing what needs to be done. While it is written from maternal perspective, the types of ideas, concepts and tools presented are useful for parents and caretakers of either gender. The book begins with general guidelines and tips for taking care of oneself, such as nutrition, stress reduction, social networking, time management, prioritizing, exercising, and spousal and family bonding. While these sound like what you would expect from any parenting book, they frame the discussion in the special needs context, with checklists, tools, strategies and goals recognizing the different resources available to this community. Continuing with discussions of financial, legal, advocacy, trust funds and other issues, the authors propose a number of creative suggestions for envisioning life in a positive and dynamic way. Each chapter presents a common concern, with a discussion of the issues, quotations of how different parents have responded to the concern, brainstorming of variety of possible solutions, and tools. The tools are an incredible resource. These include quizzes, self or family evaluation tools, checklists for managing specific tasks, charts, creating a child's interest profile, and much more. For the parent who needs such items, the Sample Caregiver Interview Questions and Sample Flexibility Proposal to ask for flextime at work are probably either one alone worth the cost of the book.
Recommended for collections of consumer health, general parenting, disabilities and personal or home collections."
-CAPHIS Consumer Connections, November 2006
"Every parent of a child with a disability knows the family demands can be enormous. Mothers are usually last in line for any tender loving care. But the burnout we all feel at times can be devastating not only for ourselves, but for our children and for our marriages.
With More Than a Mom: Living a Full and Balanced Life When Your Child Has Special Needs (Woodbine House, 2006, 488 pages), Amy Baskin and Heather Fawcett have written a wonderful book that helps put these challenges into perspective. This book is not about being a super mom, but rather about finding balance, making tough decisions and developing good coping strategies. One in five families in the United States has a child with special needs, yet each of us feels alone and desperate at times. This book fills a much-needed void by addressing the struggles that mothers and caregivers experience.
More Than A Mom is a practical guide that helps you assess your own needs and your child's needs and then offers lots of practical suggestions for making sure they are addressed. The authors surveyed 500 mothers of children with special needs while preparing to write this book to determine both the challenges and also what made a difference.
The authors start by helping the reader decide what will improve the mother's life and then address how to make it happen. Lots of concrete examples facilitate the reader's creative thinking. There are chapters devoted to maintaining and expanding your network of good friends, eating right, exercising and getting enough sleep. While these mirror a lot of self-help books, Baskin and Fawcett approach each topic with a clear sense of the challenges in the lives of their readers. The last chapter in this section deals with the myriad of emotions experienced by parents of children with disabilities--anger, anxiety and depression. There is acknowledgment of the feelings and frustrations commonly experienced, as well as some straightforward guidance about when to ask for help from professionals.
Other areas of the book offer guidance on finding the information and supports to meet your child's needs effectively. This information will not be new to most CHADD members.
More Than a Mom returns to the major theme when it addresses all the other relationships in our lives. The chapter titled Who's Minding the Marriage? tackles many of the challenges experienced by couples parenting a child with special needs. When parents disagree on a child's challenges or on the best interventions, it can play havoc with a relationship. The authors offer a candid and open discussion of the many issues that create tension between spouses, with practical guidance on working through these issues. This chapter alone is worth the price of the book. There is also a good chapter addressing the needs of siblings who do not have disabilities. And grandparents and extended family members are not left out; these are the members of the family that may take the longest to come to terms with a child's disability and have difficulty figuring out how to be supportive.
The last sections address the challenges of mothers who also work, with some no-nonsense guidance on making the tough decisions when the demands become too much. A frank presentation of options, including 'cutting back, taking off or calling it quits' allows the reader to really explore alternatives that may have seemed off limits.
If your child's special needs have a major impact on your life and the life or your family, then this is a book to cherish. Even dads may benefit from this book--as long as they can get past all the female references."
-Attention!Magazine, February 2007
"Living a full and balanced life isn't always easy if you're the mother of a child with special needs. Authors Amy Baskin and Heather Fawcett know this from personal experience: both are raising children on the autism spectrum. They reject the idea that moms should focus on everyone in the family but themselves, and have written a self-care guide to help moms avoid this unfortunate tendency. I've rarely found so many practical ideas in one place.
It's plain to see that the authors of More Than a Mom understand how busy their intended audience is; while you'll want to read it all, you don't have to. With clearly labeled sections, including Daily Life-Reality Check and Redefining Your Work Life, it's easy to find the information you need for a quick and practical consultation. Charts and lists abound, and the book contains a thorough resource section.
The authors offer reassurance, but they urge readers to reach out for support when they need it. This is perhaps the most important thing moms can do to keep feelings of negativity from spiraling into hopelessness or depression.
Raising a child who has ADHD or another special need can be hard. But this positive, practical, and readable book will help you make it rewarding too."
-ADDitude Magazine, January 2007
"Ms. Baskin and Ms. Fawcett, both parents of children with special needs, distributed surveys through organizations, support groups, social workers, doctors and other health care professionals to collect information from mothers of children with special needs. Using their own experiences, as well as experiences of the more than 500 survey respondents, these two women wrote a book that reminds mothers they are 'more than moms' and encourages then to focus on the positive aspects of their lives, rather than on the burdens and responsibilities, isolation, extra duties, time and paperwork involved with care giving. Moms are challenged to recognize that the skills they have acquired while parenting a child with special needs are extremely valuable and can be used not only to establish new careers for themselves, but also to help others.
When we are so busy taking care of our children, it is easy to lose sight of the things we need to do to take care of ourselves. Each chapter begins with an inspirational quote from a mom and offers practical advice about eating, sleeping, maintaining relationships with husbands or other partners, with other children, and with friends. Additional chapters provide help and hints for finding childcare, reentering the workforce and finding balance to life.
These two authors have written a wonderful, hopeful book that encourages readers to cope, adapt and thrive."
-Federation for Children with Special Needs, NewsLine, Fall 2006
"Written by two mothers of special needs children, this everyday life manual covers all the bases. It provides practical advice on dealing with challenges from getting more sleep to hiring caregivers. Topics include how to maintain physical and emotional health, stay organized, advocate for your child, change or start a career or business, maintain friendships and strengthen marriage. Mothers from across the United States and Canada (including some who responded to an announcement in Quest) contributed to the important lessons and advice found in the book."
-Quest, 2006, No.6 (magazine of the The Muscular Dystrophy Association)
"When therapists define the word balance, we include words like postural control, base of support and center of gravity. In their book, More Than a Mom: Living a Full and Balanced Life When Your Child Has Special Needs, Amy Baskin and Heather Fawcett discuss a different kind of balance.
From their own personal experience as mothers of children with special needs and professionals involved in special needs advocacy and education, these women have succeeded in compiling a wonderful resource: a book written for mothers of children with special needs that is also helpful to the professionals involved in the lives of these children.
The balance Baskin and Fawcett discuss includes words like accomplishment, providing and preparing. Each chapter of More Than a Mom is full of specific suggestions with detailed information on how to accomplish balance as the mom of a child with special needs one step at a time. Included are suggestions as practical as meal planning to subjects as intricate as trust planning. A reader might not need every item of information in this book, but I am confident there is something useful for anyone.
From the perspective of a therapist, I would recommend this book as a resourceful addition to the library of those working with the special-needs population. It can only add to the understanding one should have of the challenges faced by families of these children. It is also full of resources and tools that a professional could pass along to clients. These is a comprehensive listing in the back of agencies in the United States and Canada, including advocacy, support groups, assistive technology and future planning.
Within the chapters are checklists, budget worksheets and affirmations offered to help in obtaining the balance of which they speak. Also addressed are the intricacies involved in being the working mother of a child with a disability. Childcare options are discussed with many suggestions and experiences, enabling one to consider various points that would affect choices.
An examination of the transformation of a mother's priorites is offered without judgment. Useful tips for time management, office legalities and even starting a home-based business are comprehensive and practical.
From the perspective of a mother of a child with special needs, I would again recommend this book as a resource to be put into the hands of families as early in their journey as possible. This book centralizes much of the information I have collected over the years from various agencies, support groups, Web sites and professionals.
It is extremely helpful to have all of this information available in one place. Also provided is the emotional support that comes with the quotes obtained from the many women who shared their experiences with Baskin and Fawcett.
The empathy that is offered along with the wisdom from personal experience is invaluable to a mother who is given this opportunity--an opportunity only understood by other mothers of these special children and that Baskin and Fawcett obviously understand."
-ADVANCE for Physical Therapists & PT Assistants, January 1, 2007
"More Than a Mom: Living a Full and Balanced Life When Your Child has Special Needs, by Amy Baskin and Heather Fawcett, takes an encyclopedic approach to the challenges faced by millions of mothers--from finding the best childcare for a child with unusual needs to making time for the caregiver to take care of herself. This book addresses the financial marital, emotional, physical, technical and legal implications of life with a special needs child. The book includes advice from 500 mothers from across the U.S. and Canada. Primary caregivers will find comfort along with factual information and practical advice."
-Tourette Syndrome Association Newsletter, Winter 2006
"Often I find living with my children with Down syndrome a delightful challenge, but there are times when I really need a wallow in self-pity and this book is just wonderful to have around then.
Don't be put off by the Americanism 'Mom'in the title. This is no glib 'miracle cure in 10 days' self-help book, but rather a book based on the personal experiences of more than 500 North American mothers of children with special needs. Just the existence of the book is reassuring, for it recognizes that mothers have needs as well as their children, that mothers deserve a full and balanced life and that their job is 'parenting plus'. The authors are both mothers to children on the autistic spectrum so have faced many challenges and rather than easy answers they offer practical strategies that have worked for them.
I highly recommend this book, now I just want to find the time to savour it fully!"
-New Zealand Down Syndrome Journal, Volume 30, Spring 2006
"Parenting comes with its own set of challenges, and for the parents of children with special needs, making the right decisions concerning their welfare can be particularly difficult. Since 1985, Woodbine House has been a bellwether for parents, children, and professionals, publishing a vast array of books pertaining to children with disabilities. Most of the staff at this publishing house has had personal experience with special needs and they write: 'our lives are touched every day by many of the issues and topics we cover in our books...it's what we think enables us to communicate through our books in ways that connect to parents and professionals.
Their books encompass a multitude of topics from AD/HD, autism, and Down syndrome, to learning disabilities, traumatic brain injury, and special education. 'The National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs found that one out of five families has at least one child with special needs,' states authors Amy Baskin and Heather Fawcett in More than a Mom: Living a Full and Balanced Life When Your Child has Special Needs (1-890627-51-8). These mothers, who are often under an inordinate amount of stress, are surprisingly strong in spirit, states the book, which was created to help them 'cope, adapt, and thrive while parenting a child with a disability.
Readers will find this book not only an uplifting homage to the difficulties of raising a disabled child, but brimming with pragmatic advice as well. It is divided into eight parts, like 'Family Ties,' which includes tips on keeping a marriage strong and engaging the help of grandparents, and 'Redefining Your Work Life,' which helps a mother find the right job or start a home-based business.
The authors also recognize that their audience may have little time to read, so they have included easily accessible, indispensable sidebars like 'Thirty Cheap and Quick Ways to Have Fun' and stories from real mothers. There are tips for dealing with everyday life, such as scheduling housework, how to use a day planner, finding outside help, as well as anger management and the power of optimism. These mundane tasks can be overwhelming for mother raising a child who requires additional tutelage.
The authors give hope and practical advice to those mothers who take admirable care of their children but find it hard to take care of themselves."
-ForeWord Magazine, July/August 2006, Volume 9, Number 4
"Mothers of children with special needs are often overwhelmed by the day-to-day essential tasks (both large and small) of managing their child's condition, to the point of neglecting themselves, their partners, and their typically developing children. As authors Amy Baskin and Heather Fawcett point out, 'extraordinary parenting responsibilities can create extraordinary pressures' (4).
More than a Mom offers practical information and support in down-to-earth, conversational prose. Advice, conveyed in a friendly style, gives mothers permission to have a life separate from their role as 'mom with a child with special needs' and guides them toward independence.
The authors state at the outset, their book 'isn’t just about coping with or adapting to the heavier parenting demands of mothering a child with special needs. Instead, the work is 'about helping you thrive, be happy, and carve out a fulfilling life for yourself' (5). This fulfilling life could include finding time to get together friends, pursue a hobby, and achieve work-life balance -- things mothers of typically-developing children also struggle to achieve, without the added responsibility of caring for a child with special needs.
The authors--one has a child with autism, the other a child with Asperger’s syndrome--augment their personal experiences with information from over five hundred mothers from Canada and the United States and with current research from multiple sources. They cast their special needs net wide: rather than focusing on a single special needs population, the authors include first-hand experiences from mothers whose children have a wide variety of disorders and conditions including Angelman syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, Down's syndrome, muscular dystrophy, vision hearing problems, learning disabilities, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, developmental delays, and medically fragile conditions. While both authors are Canadian and reside in Ontario--Baskin lives in Guelph and Fawcett in Ottawa--they cite American terminology and focus on American programs, with parenthetical Canadian references.
Thirty chapters are divided into seven parts: Welcome to Our World; Taking Care of Yourself; Daily Life Reality Check; Family Ties; Overcoming Barriers to Quality Care; Career and Home; and Redefining your Work Life. Part eight features five appendices and is followed by a resource list, related readings, research references, and a comprehensive index. While there is little new here in terms of mother-self care advice, the book’s focus on women whose children have special needs makes it a useful resource.
In fact, this book includes too much information. At nearly five hundred pages, it may be daunting for a woman with little spare time. Each chapter, however, is brief and can be ready quickly--ideal for the mother of a special needs child who is practiced in the 'grazing' style of reading. A future edition could benefit from an improved layout that would lend itself more readily to scanning.
More Than a Mom is a well-researched, in-depth handbook for any mother facing the particular challenges and demands of raising a child with special needs."
Journal of the Association for Research on Mothering, Volume 10. 2