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There’s one aspect of freelancing with kids that I haven’t tackled much here on the blog. Freelancing with a special needs child.
I know there are other parents out there–trying to balance their freelance career while providing complete care for a child with special needs. It’s a challenge. I understand!
Here’s a look at my story, and what I’ve learned these past several years of freelancing.
My Child with Special Needs
Meet Owen. He’s my oldest son, who turns 13 at the end of May.
Owen has Angelman Syndrome. That’s a genetic deletion on the 15th chromosome.
Owen has special needs. He doesn’t speak. He needs help with basic needs like eating, toileting, and getting dressed. He suffers from difficult to control seizures. He has Pica and tries to eat everything in the house.
He’s also loving. He’s happy. And he keeps life interesting. He learned to walk at the age of 7, though he still struggles with balance. If you want, you can read more about Owen here.
I was a bit worried about freelancing with Owen for three main reasons.
- He has tons of medical appointments.
- We never know when a trip to the ER will occur for a hard to stop seizure or a foreign object stuck in his throat.
- We’ve had plenty of week-long hospital stays throughout his life.
I was worried that I’d constantly be late on assignments, having to email my clients and explain the situation, and develop a bad reputation as a writer.
It turns out, many of my worries were unfounded. I’ve yet to miss a deadline because of my child with special needs.
You see, I build padding into my deadlines. I need just a couple of hours to finish most of my assignments. But, I almost always give myself about a week to get them done.
That buffer? It allows me to freelance even when I don’t know what each day will bring.
Here are some other tips to finding success as a freelancer when you have a child with special needs.
1. Utilize Snippets of Time
Hours of uninterrupted time to work on my freelancing just don’t happen. I’m a mom to 7, including one with severe special needs. I’m lucky to get 30 minutes straight.
That’s why using snippets of time is essential. There’s a lot you can do to grow your business in just a few minutes. I wrote a list of 50 ways over on Gina’s site. Check it out if you need ideas!
Don’t waste your time–a few minutes here and a few minutes there add up!
2. Have a Game Plan in Place
I start every day with a list of what I need to accomplish. That way when I find myself with a few minutes, I don’t have to stop and think about what I need to do.
During our breakfast time morning meeting, I jot down the top three-five things I need to get done. Here’s what that list might look like:
- Finish blog post on soil for a client
- Comment on 3 blogs
- Update 5 Pinterest boards with a cover
- Search job boards for gigs & pitch 5
- Post on my homeschooling blog
- Edit pics for next week’s post
- Buffer 10 awesome posts to share
- Check comments on website and update plugins
- Find sources for next assignment for client
My days are rarely identical–each one brings something new. That’s why traditional scheduling doesn’t work well for my family.
Owen’s medical condition means we’re only one massive seizure away from an ER visit. We never know if or when it’ll happen, but the possibility is always on our minds.
If you have a child with special needs with acute medical issues, I’m sure you understand what I’m talking about.
I don’t like to focus on this aspect of our life, but I can’t ever truly forget.
By having a game plan in place, I force myself to prioritize what I want to get done for my freelancing. I think about what’s important, and start from there.
3. Implement Family Writing Time
When I first starting implementing writing time with the kids, I worried the most about Owen. With his attention span, I wasn’t sure what activities would keep him busy for thirty minutes. The other kids gave me plenty of ideas!
Owen is either in his room (which is off the main living area, so still nearby), in his wheelchair with the tray, or in a strapped chair at the table. All three of those locations are places where he’s secure and safe.
I don’t have to worry about him ripping eye off his sister’s toy and swallowing it during writing time. I know I’ll hear him or see him if he has problems. He’s safe and happy.
Here’s what he’s working with:
- iPad with an educational app or a movie that works on letters (his favorite!)
- Wooden ABC blocks with a bucket to put them in/dump them out of
- Large chunky puzzle
- Looking at cloth books (the only style he can’t yet tear apart and eat)
Occasionally we’ll pull out other activities, but these are the ones he’s the most independent with. That’s what writing time is about–building the length of time my kids can work quietly on their own. It’s good for all of us!
4. Love On Your Kids
Take time throughout the day to love on your kids. All of them.
Each day is a new opportunity to share life with your family. Don’t hold grudges. Don’t focus on the negatives.
Owen has taught our family that we never know what life holds. We know that the Lord has a perfect plan for all of us. We rest in that, while taking life one day at a time.
Don’t take your kids for granted–don’t get so wrapped up in your freelancing that you do so at the expense of your family.
Are you working from home with a special needs child? I’d love to connect!
Lisa Tanner is a former teacher turned homeschooling mom with 11 kids. She's also a successful freelance writer. Lisa enjoys helping other busy moms find time to start and grow a side hustle of their own.