For parents of disabled kids, one of life's biggest struggles comes from outside the home.

Everyone knows being a parent is hard. But parenting a disabled child carries challenges you don't expect.

Many of us in this world are juggling multiple tasks at one time. On any given day, we are nurses, therapists, advocates, teachers, personal care assistants, and administrative assistants managing their endless paperwork.

When I had my son, I expected to face these day-to-day difficulties of parenting a disabled child. But the challenge I wasn't expecting came from outside the home.


For years, I have always wondered why friends seem to drop like flies from my life. What am I doing wrong? Why do I struggle making and keeping friends?

Photo by Megan Lewis/Unsplash.

I might be near people, but I’m a million miles away.

I listen to amazing stories about vacations, outings, and all the milestones that their children have accomplished. When I hear others having wonderful lives full of happy memories, I find that I sink further away from the conversation. I nod my head and smile, but inside I’m screaming because our lives are so different and it feels so unfair. My son hasn’t met those milestones, we never go on vacation, and our lives are spent moving from one office to another for appointments.

If I do speak, I know that I will have to share our journey. Talking to anyone about our life has a way of making me feel incredibly anxious. After the stress of a day caring for him, I don’t want to recap what is going on, nor do I want to answer questions. I also don’t want anyone feeling sorry for us. More often than not, I find myself not saying much at all.

Eventually, the night ends. I feel depleted, sad, and I am reminded how out of place I feel in the world. I push everyone away from me because it is so hard to be around anyone. I don’t like being reminded our life is different, and I can’t handle how that realization makes me feel. Selfishly I can’t focus my energy on anyone other than my child, and helping friends navigate their problems is impossible for me. I realize I just cannot be the friend I need to be.

Texts go unreturned, I stop answering messages and emails on my social media, and I quit accepting invites or attending events. The truth is I push everyone away because I’m emotionally drained by my feelings. I know our life is different, I hate that my child is dealing with so much adversity, and I can’t relate to anyone around me.

In the end, friendships dissolve because I can’t contribute, keep plans, or give anything to anyone other than my son.

I’ve learned over the years that I’m not alone in my feelings.

Other parents of disabled children have shared these same feelings with me. The lives of parents of disabled children are not typical, and we are keenly aware of our differences.

Our lives are filled with appointments, therapy, and endless paperwork that will take us away from the world as we care for our children. We are not readily accessible to our friends for long periods of time. Many of us feel incredibly guilty for not being better friends, but most of us accept that we are incapable of nurturing meaningful relationships outside of our immediate family.

We wish more than anything that people understood that even though we can’t always be there for people — we desperately need them in our lives. Even though we can’t go to events, we wish people would remember to invite us. We wish we didn’t feel so out of place, and hope that one day we will find someone who gets our life.

More importantly, we wish we were capable of being better friends, and that we could relate to other parents. Our lives as parents of disabled children make having friendship a tough challenge, and for many of us giving up is more natural than fighting.

We fight for everything for our children, so when it comes to the fight to maintain relationships, we need a little more help from our friends.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Image is a representation of the grandfather, not the anonymous subject of the story.

Eight years a go, a grandfather in Michigan wrote a powerful letter to his daughter after she kicked out her son out of the house for being gay. It's so perfectly written that it crops up on social media every so often.

The letter is beautiful because it's written by a man who may not be with the times, but his heart is in the right place.

It first appeared on the Facebook page FCKH8 and a representative told Gawker that the letter was given to them by Chad, the 16-year-old boy referenced in the letter.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."