Here are twelve things that I’ve learned as a mother of a special needs child that I have found to be true, whether dealing with my son or when I’m at work in my business. 

1. Complacency can be painful

a women leisurely reading a book showing how being complacent at can be detrimental.

Sometimes it’s hard to see how NOT doing something can cause you pain. Well, it can. I have a 16-year-old son with Smith-Magenis Syndrome and have learned that NOT paying attention that sitting comfortably and watching a movie or reading a book can be painful. You never know when the next toy, plate, cup, or electronic device may take on a new life as a projectile in my house. For those of you who may not have experienced it, let me assure you these items can hurt, especially if you’re comfortably ensconced in whatever you’re doing.

At Work: The same holds with business. You are comfortable with your place in the market. You’re communicating with your loyal customers. They are happy with what you provide. Things are going along smoothly. You never saw it coming when that new startup came on the scene, and your loyal customers are now theirs, your market share has plummeted, and your offerings are behind the times. Complacency can be painful.

2. Tone of voice matters.

How you say, it can matter so much more than what you say.  When I’m talking to my son and ask him in a sweet voice to get up in the morning, I end up with him pulling the covers back over his head and promptly going back to sleep. When I pull the covers off him & tell him to get his butt moving, I get movement (okay, some mornings it is him literally wiggling his butt, but it’s movement.) And by the second, third, okay fifth time I state it, he actually does get up.

At Work: You can be sweet, you can be firm, but how you say things matters. As a woman, I’ve found sweet can get you dismissed as not being someone to be taken seriously. A firm and authoritative tone can produce better results, they may not like you, but it’s not a popularity contest when there is work to be done.

3. Be aware of your surroundings

It’s easy to get caught up in what you are doing and not pay attention to what is happening around you. At home or work, you need to be aware of your surroundings. In my house, not paying attention can land you with a toy bouncing off your head. (Sounds funny – it hurts like hell when it’s one of those Fisher-Price animal flashlights. Actually, it gave me a concussion.) 

women who is overhearing comments from other employees at work.

At Work: This can be the conversation you really shouldn’t have or the one that someone else had when they didn’t realize you were there. Either way, it can mean hurt feelings or the wrong people finding out about business plans/actions before they were supposed to. The consequences could be minor, or they could jeopardize your job.

4. Situations can change at a moments notice

The day is going great; everyone is happily doing their thing, then it all falls apart.  Why?  Who knows. But that’s the life of a special needs family. Crisis can come at any moment, from any direction, and for no discernable reason.

At Work: You may have had an idea that although the company that bought yours out six months ago and assured everyone that nothing was going to change, it wasn’t quite on the level. Still, you got blindsided when they let you go with no notice.

man looking surprised sitting on steps with box of belongings after being downsized at work.

5. Be prepared to leave if things go bad

Where:  The grocery store.  What:  flying frozen chicken wings… Time to go!

At Work: If you see things that make you question your organization’s commitment to ethical business practices. When you are not part of the “in-crowd” at the office, which means you will never move up. You feel that something is just not on the level… time to go.

6. While rules can be difficult to implement, not having structure can be hazardous

Okay, I’m not one for a lot of rules. But there are times when that structure is necessary.  At home – my son MUST sit in the passenger back seat.  He is absolutely NOT allowed in the front seat or behind the driver.  Why?  Hmmm… From the front seat, he’s pulled the keys out of my ignition and thrown them into the woods (never found that set), put his foot into the windshield, breaking it, grabbed my steering wheel, pulled my hair & destroyed my glasses.  He’s also really good at doing those last two from the driver’s side back seat.

gnatt charts showing the structure of a business project.

At Work: In the office, having structure provides stability (just like at home). Everyone knows when they are supposed to be there, for how long, and what is expected of them. Without these basic rules and structures, your business could go under because no one was everywhere they were supposed to be & nothing ever got done, or clients can never reach you. It may not be a literal car wreck, but it can still wreck a business.

7. Duck and cover

There are times the best option is to just duck & cover. We learned when you can’t get out of the way, or things are flying – duck & cover. Most things are replaceable, but no one needs another concussion!

At Work: Hopefully, things aren’t actually flying through the air at your office (if so — absolutely duck & cover!), but social politics can be just as dangerous. If it’s not an ethical, legal, or moral situation & you are not involved – your best course of action may be to just duck & cover. With ethical or legal issues, you know what to do. And, if the business engages in activities that violate your moral compass, you may need to get out.

8. Bring a change of clothes, probably two.

a clothes line full of doll clothes representing the importance of planing for the unexpected.

Having a teen who’s not fully potty trained is an interesting situation, and one that taught me early – always bring a change of clothes for him & if you’re going to be out for a while, you had better bring two!

At Work: This isn’t necessarily about having an actual change of clothes (although I can think of a few times that would have been useful), but more about being prepared for any eventuality. An extra few dollars in your drawer to cover dinner for that all-nighter at the office that you didn’t know you were having. A pair of flats, for when your heal breaks off, or your feet can’t take it anymore. A sweater for when whoever sets the thermostat decides arctic winter is a great setting.

9. Some things just take a long time to accomplish

Boy, is that the truth. We’ve been working on potty training for 14-years. We’ve been working on talking so others can understand for almost as long. School tells us that they have some really good days on the potty front… hopefully, it will eventually translate to home, but we’re at 16-years and counting… some things just take a REALLY long time.

a persons standing on a mountain representing the importance of perseverance.

At Work: Some projects are just slow. I’ve worked on websites, business reports, IS0-9000 compliance. Some things just take a lot of time. Others that can seem more complex get done in a flash, but you just got to keep plugging along – eventually, you’ll get there.

10. Celebrate the small successes

celebration banners and confetti.  expressing the importance of celebrating the little successes in life, be they at work or in your personal endeavors.

Take joy in the little steps.  This morning was okay.  My son got up, took a shower without too much banging around, had a terrible time when I told him it was too cold to wear shorts & again when it came to his deodorant, but pulled it together & got on the bus. I take this as an okay morning… it had some bad, some good, but ended positively — I didn’t have to take him to school!!

At Work: Keep track of those little successes. Sometimes when you don’t get the big win, it can become frustrating. You work & work & don’t get the big one. This is why you write down and celebrate the small wins along the way. When you look back, you realize you are getting a whole lot more wins/successes than you originally thought. 

If we only focus on the big things, we miss out on many little joys along the journey.

11. Stay calm in the chaos

a raging see with large waves and rocks which they are crashing over.  this is to represent the storms of life and how maintaining calm and being composed can help you through them.

When things are flying and everyone else is coming apart at the seams, if you can keep it together, you can guide everyone back to the right path and smooth everything back out.

At home, this can sometimes be literal. Sometimes it is just that everything that can go wrong does. Regardless, if you can be counted on to navigate through the storm, you’ll get through it quicker and without as much destruction and loss as you could experience if you fell apart too. Now, once everything is back on solid ground — then you can have your breakdown. Yes, everyone looks at you like you’re nuts, but hey, you had the same emotional turmoil. You were just strong enough to get everyone through it before you broke. 

At Work: I would recommend – wait till you’re home, or at least alone before you break down.

12. Examine things with an eye to unintended uses

Looking for unintended uses has been a critical lesson. With children in general, but absolutely with special needs children (definitely with mine), if something can be used in a manner it was not intended for, it will be.  My son looks at everything for how it can be taken apart (and yes, he can take anything apart – without tools … brute strength is amazing), used as a projectile, and/or something to bang on or with.

This awareness totally changes the way you look at gifts. A busy box… Nope, that will hurt when it gets thrown at you.  A tablet? Hmmm, can it withstand being used as a Frisbee or beaten against a table or his head?  (Just an FYI – Kindles survive the best, and if you buy their “kid” version, you get two years of replacements and a nice case. And YES, they honor their warranty even if it’s the fifth time.)

women on the phone at work. this is intended to reflect the need to see beyond the normal and expected view of things and explore the possible unintended and unexpected within them.

At Work: Well, I create logos… Paying attention to the unintended is a must. Too many logos end up having imagery that, well, wasn’t what was intended. You really need to make sure your images, products, copy all reflect what you REALLY want them to. Take the time to have outsiders take a look. They might come back with a response that would horrify you if it made it to the outside world as a representation of your business. On the flip side, look for new uses to what you’ve currently got. Can a product you currently have served a different function? A different market base? Or, could a product or service that you think is a dud, be a star that’s directed to the wrong audience? 

If you want to work with real people who understand the ups and of life and business, give Neurotic Dog Studios a call at 804.464.3925, schedule an appointment at or email us through our Contact page.