Anita Miron: Navigating Life as a Mom of Kids with Special Needs
Interviewee: Anita Miron | Published on July 16, 2020 | 8 Minute Read
Meghana Repaka, one of our founders, had the pleasure of interviewing Anita Miron, a social media influencer, a business owner, and a mother of two children with special needs. Read the article below to learn more about her journey and experiences!
Interviewee: Anta Miron
Interviewed by: Meghana Repaka
Editor: Meghana Repaka
1.Tell me a little bit about your family and your children?
So I am 34 years old; when I got pregnant in 2012, I was 24. I have an eight-year-old daughter and a three-year-old son who is adopted. Both of my kids have special needs, but are beyond incredible. I also own and run a multi-million dollar business from my house with my husband. The both of us raise our kids and are partners in my business as well.
2.So what made you decide to specifically pursue adopting a special needs kid or was that not a conscious decision?
It was a conscious decision. In 2016 I became pregnant with my son Jack and we found out at 20 weeks that he had Down syndrome. At first we were devastated and it's embarrassing to say but we were.We were very sad, desperate and quite honestly ignorant to what Down syndrome even meant for us or what that was like. So I spent my entire pregnancy in 2016 interviewing other parents who had kids with Down Syndrome so that I could get an understanding of what I was getting myself into. I met with lots of kids with Down Syndrome. I volunteered at a few special needs schools just to get around kids with Down syndrome and I quickly learned in that six-month period how incredible kids with Down Syndrome are. They have such incredible hearts, they were so happy and so loving. So when we went through that Journey we became excited about Jack and about being able to guide him through life. Unfortunately, at 32 weeks I could not feel him kicking and he had passed away. After that loss, I went on to lose another son at 20 weeks who did not have special needs. After that second loss I decided that I wanted to adopt.
We'd already wanted to adopt for a very long time, but we didn't know if we were cut out for special needs until we had mentally pushed ourselves as parents of a child with special needs. Initially during the adoption journey we did not want to move forward with the special needs situation, but as the adoption journey unfolded for us, we started to see how flawed the adoption system can be, especially with private domestic adoption. You are spending a lot of money just to be connected with the child. There's probably 30 to 40 applications per infant and I didn't feel like we were being called to adopt somebody who really needed it and so we switched our file and got approved for special needs adoption. A week from that approval we found out about Warren. Warren was in the NICU at Levine Children's Hospital in North Carolina and had been there for a month and they were having trouble finding a family that was special needs approved that would be willing to take on such a drastic case. We were notified about him, but didn't ask questions. We were like, okay, we're getting in the car and we just drove from Michigan to North Carolina and decided right then and there that we were going to adopt him. At that time he was diagnosed with ACC which is the genesis of the corpus callosum, which is a very rare brain disorder. It is not something you are going to hear about a lot at least I never did. So we got a very big file about Warren’s special needs and we kind of just ignored it and we just kind of went with the flow of really just understanding him and getting to know him .He turned out to be just the most amazing kid. All while this was happening we were also learning that my now eight year old has ADHD. That was a huge turning point for us in regards to adopting another child with special needs. Now that we had already established ourselves as parents of a child with special needs, we felt strong going forward with another situation.So three years later we are doing really well and he's doing amazing.
3.What would you say is the most challenging aspect of raising kids with special needs ?
With my kids we didn't start to see the special needs until later on in life. Scarlett, who's 8, has ADHD. We didn't start to really notice that it was ADHD until she was being asked to be removed from preschools. We were first-time parents with her and therefore had no idea that her behavior was different from any other toddler. She was quite unorganized,very emotional, very hyperactive and couldn't really follow through with tasks without being handheld. It was when we put her into a preschool, professionals were reaching out to us saying that they thought that she needs to be examined for ADHD. At first we were really hesitant and scared. We didn't want to go through the process of putting her on medications. My husband actually was diagnosed as a child, but he hasn't really dealt with it much as an adult. So what was challenging for us was accepting what other professionals were saying about our child and accepting to give ourselves grace as parents and not taking it too hard. I think at first we were very hard on ourselves. We thought that the issues that she was having with ADHD in those first few years was a product of our parenting. We learned that we had to be more educated about ADHD, we learned that it was definitely a brain disorder or a chemical brain dysfunction, it wasn't anything that we could have done and so it was more about forgiving ourselves as parents. So what we dealt with Scarlet, we were starting to see that with Warren. What we see is a lot of emotional outbursts speaking before thinking, hitting, slapping, pushing, basically a lot of violent behavior and constantly needing to be walked through every single task. That is very challenging, especially when we both have a business that we run from home. Fortunately, we make our own schedule. I think the major thing is grace towards each other as parents. The kids behaviors are not learned; it's not something that they picked up from school from our parenting or television. It's because they are not fully developed in certain areas. Typical children are developed. So we have to stay understanding and patient and that's really hard when you have a full-time business and two kids, but we've been making it work.
4.What about the most rewarding aspect?
Well, I mean being a mom is the best job in the world. I love being a mom and I am speaking about the challenges, but I don’t view my day-to-day as hard. I don't view it as a challenge. I'm not sitting here complaining or saying. “Oh my gosh, this is so hard.” It's just my reality and it's what I've accepted to be my reality. I love my children so much that I wouldn't want it any other way. I want them exactly how they are and I just want to be there to help them navigate life and to develop into well functioning adults. The most rewarding is that both of my kids are very loving, they are very emotional and very sensitive. I also get to see some of the things that they do that are just amazing. My daughter is brilliant. She has tested way off the charts in math and spatial awareness and learning. She is just brilliant with art and engineering and projects and things like that. She can play a million hours of video games and crush every level and just be simply amazing at it, but she can't tie her shoes. So it's just that she is so good at one thing, but might not do well on something else. Regardless it is really rewarding to watch her sore and do what she is good at.
5.You run a full time business. So how do you find the balance between personal and family time and then running a full time business and doing YouTube as well?
It's really hard. I am a time management holic. I have every part of my day blocked off. Every single minute of my day is organized. Now fortunately my husband does pick up the slack with house duties and we only do one YouTube video a week so it doesn't take a ton of our time. My husband has a film degree from Full Sail University so he edits all of our videos for my Beachbody business. Fortunately I've only ever had to work part-time hours with my business so we do kind of work in pockets and time around naptime and then when they go to bed at 8 o'clock at night, I'm back to working so I'm either working or parenting.
6.So what made you want to start a YouTube channel and document your life on this platform?
Well it started originally, eight years ago when I started my Beachbody business and I wanted to use YouTube as a way to educate my team. So I was building a team and I was originally just talking on YouTube about what was working for me and I ended up building a pretty big following within our community and as time progressed I saw YouTube as a way for my followers and my team to get to know me personally because everything I do is virtual. Since everything about my business is online it is really hard to personally connect with somebody and understand who they are so YouTube has given me that platform to be myself and for people to understand me. It has also given me a platform to talk about mental health issues and special needs.
7.Do you have any advice that you would like to share with parents who are thinking of adopting or adopting kids with special needs or just in general for parents who have special needs kids?
Advice for parents with special needs kids first. I'll say that give yourself grace. It is okay to make mistakes. It is okay to fumble as a parent. I have come into so many situations where I throw my hands in the air and said I give up. I've cried on my knees praying that things would get better. I've gone through so many emotional ups and downs and I had a whole chapter where I blamed myself for what was happening to my children, but there really isn't anything you can do to change what's happening with your child. As far as the disorder you can't make it go away unless of course you use medication and things like that, but I've had to accept what has happened with my child and to recognize the strengths and recognize where we need to work in regards to challenges. For example, my daughter almost failed kindergarten and first grade. I blamed myself that I wasn't good enough of a mom. I was doing my best,I was doing everything that I could, but once I started to forgive myself and just lean in and listen to my doctors and do research I was able to kind of go about it with a more clear mind. Now if you are looking to adopt a child with special needs. My advice would be to research the heck out of the disorder and interview other children and families who deal with that specific challenge. A lot of people adopt a special needs child because they feel like they have some sort of purpose. Purpose to fulfill and that can be dangerous because it is a huge thing you are taking on. Almost like a lifelong passion project. You have to be willing to decide that this is for life and you have to be willing to make sacrifices. Be ready to have your entire world flipped upside down completely because it will change everything. I will say that since I adopted Warren as an infant, I was exposed to his needs gradually which was definitely helpful.
8. My nonprofit works with special-needs kids and our motto is to have interactive and hands-on activities because we feel like that's going to spark an interest within them. So how important is that in your day-to-day life and are the things that you do with your kids very interactive.
Yes. So my daughter is eight. She does go to school full-time right now, but of course with Covid and everything she is not in school. We do a ton of sensory projects. She plays with kinetics and she builds with Kinetic dirt. We make slime a lot and she can play with slime for hours on end. She loves to paint, she has an easel in a room and we're always doing paint projects. I know this may sound for a lot of parents counterintuitive and counterproductive. But as a family we believe that video games have been a really big help to her socially. She's made a lot of friends her age from her video games and she's able to use so many parts of her brain that she doesn't otherwise use. She has trouble with problem solving and a lot of consequences with life like for example sitting down and doing math homework. There are no consequences initially to not doing your math homework, but with something like Animal Jam or Roblox there's immediate consequences. So for a child with ADHD, they need that immediate consequence because they have no foresight in the future. For example, if you don't do your math homework, you're not going to college is a consequence of that action, but she doesn’t see that far in advance like we do but with video games she's able to pour her intellect into something and have immediate consequences. Warren at the moment he just does a lot of normal toddler stuff. He has one major interest above everything and doesn't look to anything else and that is monster trucks. He plays with monster trucks 24/7 and knows every Monster Jam monster truck. We've watched all the Monster Jam videos on YouTube. He is obsessed with cars and trucks. We even bought a Ford F-150 just because he loves trucks so much. So we're always talking to him about the trucks and their specific names.
9. I heard that it's really common to have a therapist when you have a special needs kids. Is that the case for you?
Yes, so we were assigned one for Warren. It's called early on I'm not sure if it's the same thing elsewhere. But with early on he was given a representative at birth and so every few months they come in and kind of assess where Warren is in his needs. Just recently he was approved for special education. He does have a lot of challenges in regards to balance and things like that and the biting and the hitting so we do have a therapist that comes for speech and spatial awareness and for just basic walking and climbing the stairs. Scarlet has what's called an IEP, which is just a basic special plan at her school. She sees a speech therapist and a reading specialist every day while she's at school. She actually has been told at one point she had a high school level math understanding, however she is so far behind in reading that she's reading at a kindergarten level as she was going into third grade. So that's the thing with autism or ADHD. You will see them do well in one thing because they're passionate about it but not really pay as much attention to things that they're not passionate about. So for reading and writing she has somebody that helps her with that every day.
10. How important is it to you to spread awareness and find Common Ground within the special needs Community?
I use my Instagram as my face to talk a lot about social awareness and social issues in regards to mental health and being a female in today's society and then also with parenting special needs children. It's important to me to share that journey because I know I felt very alone in the beginning. There's this thing called mom guilt that a lot of us moms get and I carried a lot of that with me for a while and it kind of drove me into depression. I felt really bad for my daughter, especially when she was four or five because that's when it all started to unfold. She came out of that toddler phase and remained a toddler at 4 or 5 years old. I had depression and anxiety around that because I felt like I had let her down. My goal as a mom and as a social-media influencer is to raise awareness around how common these issues are. Also for parents to realize that with ADHD, yes, there are behavioral therapies and things that you can do to help guide a child through a typical life, but what they're dealing with is cognitive, genetic or brain-based that's not something that you can blame yourself for. So it's important as a mom to understand that it’s no one’s fault. In fact ADHD can be a blessing. You are now able to help them remain active and guide the child to do something that they're passionate about.
About the Author
Anita Miron is a social media influencer, business owner, and the mother of two kids with special needs. In her interview with Embracing Special Needs she talks about her adoption journey, balance between work and personal time, and how important it is for her to raise awareness. She also touches upon the challenges and rewarding aspects of being a mother to a daughter with ADHD and a son with ACC. Read the interview above to learn more about her and her family.