Special Needs Highlight - Meet the Mann Boys! - Westport Moms

How many kids do you have, who in your family has special needs & how long have you lived in Westport? I have 4 kids….2 boys-16 and 15; both have autism spectrum disorders and 2 girls-11 and 4 who are typically developing.  We have lived in Weston for 13 years.
What is the biggest challenge in taking care of a child with special needs to date? For me the overall challenge came years ago when my boys were first diagnosed.  Understanding what their needs were and how to get the proper help for each of them from the schools and from other sources (their needs are very different from each other) was all consuming. Finding mom friends back then who “got it” was crucial for both my sanity and for help navigating the school system and private therapies….We have had loads of different kinds of challenges over the years, but I think once we got the basics in place, everything else seemed more manageable.
What do you enjoy most about having children with special needs? I have two and they are so different!  My older son, whose needs are more significant, really enjoys life’s simple pleasures-he loves swimming, sunshine and just being outdoors-all things I love too.  He is a daily reminder to enjoy nature and put down my phone!  My younger son, whose needs are less involved is one of the most passionate, outgoing, kind people I know.  It is such a pleasure to see him interact with people. He is magnetic, and also a terrific musician, and it is amazing to watch him excel at something and get so much joy from it.  Like everyone I guess, I enjoy seeing my kids happy:)
How has your own life been impacted after having children with special needs? In a million ways-from what my kids’ daily life looks like (think speech therapy instead of soccer) to planning for the future….most recently, it led me to co-found a company to help other special needs moms meet moms like them!  It is an app called Wolf+Friends where special needs moms can find moms in their area who “get it”…Having a child with special needs can be so isolating and my partner and I wanted to solve that problem for other moms.
How has having children with special needs impacted your other children? My daughters are incredibly patient and empathetic….they know what it feels like to have people stare at your family, and it can be difficult for them at times.  We also can’t do all of the things as a family that I would like to do (trips, dinners out, etc), but we make a huge effort to give my girls alone time with us and we tell them how proud we are of them all the time:)
What helps you relax and de-stress?  A walk at the beach or a cocktail (not at the same time:))
What is the best piece of advice you have received on this journey of uncharted waters? Celebrate your child’s gifts and passions whatever they are…. let go of whatever expectations you had for what you thought their life would look like and make the life they have as awesome as it can be.
How are you involved in your local special needs community? I have tried to bring awareness to our local community. We have amazing businesses locally that offer vocational and leisure opportunities to my son (Groove, Break and Egg-Social Kitchen, Five Little Chicks Farm in Weston). I am helping Weston Youth Services with a new initiative called Access Weston. We are trying to make existing events in Weston more accessible to the special needs community and to create an event in the fall for all families to enjoy. I don’t have a ton of time to do much locally otherwise, as I am either taking care of my kids or hustling to bring awareness to our app which functions nationwide!
If there is 1 thing you hope people can take away from your story what would it be?
My husband and I have endured many challenges, but we make it a point to enjoy and appreciate every day!  We have so much joy in our family and we really try to focus on helping our kids find their passions and be kind to everyone, and we try to help other parents navigate the world of autism.
The Wolf + Friends app is free and available in the App Store: https://apple.co/2OfZW0q

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