There is much said about a mother’s intuition, and perhaps even more said about it in the special needs community.

You know what I am referring to – everyone who says “Follow your gut” or “I just had a feeling”. Right?


There is something innate about being a mom, about having a child you are connected to in a way that allows you to know when something isn’t right or when your child needs you. It is why I would leak breast milk every time Nick cried. Even when I wasn’t there. I just knew.

Or how I could feel from the time Matt was just months old that there was something...different...about him.  And LONG before I ever breathed the word "Autism" to anyone - even about Gabriel - I knew Matt had Aspergers.  I just knew it.

And I hear the same thing from moms and dads everywhere I go.  Perhaps they are told to ignore their intuition - because the doctor thinks they are just 'new mothers' or their child is 'just spirited', but we as parents know. We just know.

But what about for our kids? Do we encourage them to trust their intuition? Their ‘little voice’ inside telling them what is a good idea and what isn’t?

Often times the answer is a resounding NO.

When I first took Nick to preschool at age 3, he was (and is) nuerotypical, precocious, and way ahead of the game socially and academically.

I signed him up for the local private preschool, the one with the new building and the fancy furniture. Spanish classes and music, field trips and real certified teachers.

And he hated it.

One day he had an incident – no one could say what it was – only that he didn’t like taking the elevator downstairs (see, I told you it was fancy).

And he didn’t want to go any more.

He would cry and complain that he didn’t like his teacher. She made him feel uncomfortable.

And I refused to leave him like that.

So, I called the director and explained that my three year old wasn’t comfortable with that teacher.

I thought for sure she would tell me to leave him – let him cry it out.

But she didn’t.

She was onboard with me HONORING my son’s intuition.

Nick intuitively wasn’t comfortable. And by not forcing him, it allowed me to teach him that that LITTLE VOICE in the back of his head was trying to keep him safe. It was telling him what the right thing for him was.  Not what mom wanted.  Not what any 'professional' said. But what was right for him.

And I want him to listen to that voice – always.

Because that sound will get drowned out by other voices someday – voices that say “Come on, we’re all doing it” or “No one will know, just do it!”

He needs to know that his intuition is what guides him.

So to honor his 3-year-old-intuition, we made the change to another teacher and moved to a class that was in the morning instead of the afternoon – a complete 180.  And you know what? Nick loved it. Loved the new teacher. Loved school.

When it came time to bring Matthew to preschool, we had a similar challenge.

Matt qualified for developmental preschool right at the time he turned 4. Because he was a late potty-trainer (3 years 8 months) we didn't even attempt preschool the year before.

And when I took Matt to school, he wanted me to stay. He wanted me to go in. He didn’t want me to leave. He was uncomfortable in these new surroundings.

And I refused to leave him there crying.


Because it seemed very straight forward that my son was uncomfortable because he didn’t know these people. He had never met them. He had never been to this building. Heck, I had the same feelings initially too!

Since I wouldn’t leave him there crying, or allow him to be drug into school, on the third day of preschool (give or take) I was met at drop off by the teacher, the school psychologist and the principal.

Hmmm. That’s not good.

The psychologist was the first to speak,

“Matthew will be fine once you leave. We can handle him.”

“Thanks…” I look at her name tag, “…Laura, for sharing that with me.”

And I stopped talking.

You see, Matthew hadn’t ever met these people before, and if his little voice inside said, “Hey, wait, this doesn’t feel right for me to be left with strangers that drag me somewhere screaming.” I was OK with that.  Actually, I am thrilled with that.

You see, he is right:  I don’t leave him with strangers.

So it is logical that he would find my desire to leave him somewhere new with strangers a bit…odd.

I calmly told the three ladies that I had successfully got my two older boys into school, without having to leave them screaming, including my oldest who has MANY MORE challenges than Matthew, and given this isn’t my first rodeo, I am certain that I can accomplish the same thing with Matthew. Sans tears.

They left me alone.

And I know you are going to be shocked by this, so you might want to sit down, but Matthew attends school every day now without tears.


Listening to your inner voice, following your instincts or intuition, and trusting your gut are things that we as moms struggle with because we weren’t taught that it is a GOOD IDEA to do some from an early age.

And I think we should've.  So, I am doing so with my sons.

You never know, my boys may someday be special needs parents too. (That whole genetic thing and all.)

And I want them to know now – that trusting their intuition is a powerful and positive thing to do.

For all of us.


Anonymous said...

I love this. We have to teach our kids to trust themselves just as we do. Perfect.

In Real Life said...

Thank you, this is a wonderful post. Trusting my intuition is something that I have had to consciously make the effort to do, but now that I am in the habit of trusting inner voice, it is much easier to make good decisions.

The Henrys said...

Wow, this is amazing. What an eye opener post this is! I have so much to think about and will be re-reading this post!

Heather said...

Completely in agreement..I remember when the boys were little and we'd visit relatives they never saw (adn this too was before any diagnoses) and they really weren't comfortable kissing these strangers (which they were strangers to them) and I always asked my relatives to respect their wishes, I wasn't always the most popular family member but I'd be mad if someone forced me to hug or kiss someone I didn't know...

msellie57 said...

Awesome. I learned the hard way to trust my son's intuition, after he kept telling me, "Ms. T (his teacher) says hit me." For several weeks I misunderstood what he was telling me, and he didn't have the skills to clarify it--thought his language delays were making him mix the words up (a common problem for him), and that his teacher was telling him not to hit. Turns out his teacher really was telling the other children to hit him back when he hit them, to "teach him a lesson." Horrible, horrible for me to feel like I had failed to protect my son, but not a mistake I will ever make again!

Lindsay Bartholomew said...

Love this article and it couldn't have come at a better time. I am struggling so much with Emma-rages constantly, moods up and down with no rhyme or reason etc. I keep saying that there is something more and I kind of feel like the professionals are blowing it off. I just want to scream and say I have been right every step of the way with Emma and her medical and emotional struggles, and you think now I am being dramatic?! It is so frustrating that they are minimizing something that my intuition is telling me is more than going through some medical trauma. Yes I know it was traumatic but it is just a piece of the puzzle. grrr.
I am following my intuition Thursday and having a heart to heart with Emma's primary care. She thankfully is someone who completely trusts me and my gut.

thanks again, your posts always seem to come at the perfect time!

John and Allie Fields said...

People think I'm crazy with how much I make decisions based on my three year old's intuition. Why would I not trust her feelings? Letting a child use their inner gut is one of the best ways to keep an open line of communication and trust with least in my opinion!

Caitlin Wray said...

Love this Hartley. One of the pitfalls of modern child development theory is that we tend to end up thinking our kids are partial-people, and it`s up to us to guide them into wholeness.

But each child is born as a whole person. That doesn`t mean their personality is already predetermined or that our guidance doesn`t matter, it just means they deserve COMPLETE respect, not a version that has been reduced to match their size.


Lola said...

Hi there! Thanks so much for sharing your blog with me! I found you on Twitter! I just joined yesterday hoping to meet other parents of children with autism! I have a blog too, but I'm embarrassed to say that I don't update it nearly enough. I really want to write about my sons progress with his ABA program and feeding therapy (he is 5 and only eats yogurt, baby food and pudding currently). My blog is: and I'm "following" yours. I also have a website where I talk about my son and his diagnoses (he is also legally blind) and the story about how we came to them. And I also make Autism Awareness Jewelry in honor of my son. Thanks again! Glad I met you on here! :)

Lola said...

Maybe I could do a giveaway on your blog sometime. Perhaps an Autism Awareness Bracelet - we could write up a story or interview, and then give away a bracelet to a random chosen reader who comments! :) I've never done that before but I know its popular, and this would be a great blog to do it on! :) Let me know! - you can send me a message on there or on twitter @AutismLoveHope :)

sazzifrazz said...

Thank you, I needed to read this today. Sometimes I think my 4 year old has better intuition than I do.