Newsline Volume 31, Number 3

Making Beautiful Music Together

By Maureen Jerz, Development Director

Singer/songwriter Susan WernerThe Federation is pleased to have a new partner to help raise awareness about our work and the families and professionals we serve. Susan Werner is a singer, songwriter, and the family member of a child with special needs. Susan's hauntingly beautiful new song "My Different Son" captures the essence of the emotional journey experienced by many families of children with special needs as they struggle with the uncertainty of their child's future. Susan spoke with the Federation and described her song as, "a photograph of a parent at the exact moment in the parenting journey when the parent realizes that their child is really different, is always going to face certain challenges in the world, and wonders what will become of that child and how the parent can help the child find his way in the world." Susan became increasingly aware of, "how difficult it can be for kids with special needs to earn a place in the world, especially the world of education." She recognizes the fundamental shift that takes place, "the reset point" as she calls it, that changes parents. It's the moment when they know they must be "the parent that a child needs you to be" as opposed to "the parent they want to be." And at this moment Susan feels that there is a message, a gift that children with special needs can give to all of us, which is that life should be less about "steering the outcome and more about enjoying the movie."

Susan gets many inquiries about "My Different Son" when she performs it in concert. "The applause for this song goes on a little longer. People are just in it, they are thinking about someone." Often, audience members approach her afterwards, eager to show photos of their sons and daughters. "They want to talk about their child. And then people start talking to each other. Parents who have kids with special needs are so open to talking with other parents of children with special needs, even if the needs are totally different. They have all been through that reset point."

"From my observation, it can be a very isolating experience to have a child with special needs," she says. "Parents need to know that they are not alone, that they are not the only ones who have felt this way, and that it's ok to feel this way. It's unjust to say that parents should carry this all themselves." As an artist, Susan feels that the song can help parents know that they are not alone. "You feel very useful as a songwriter when you can be helpful in bringing people together in that way. When you have a child with special needs, your world becomes just a little bit bigger. If we all open our hearts enough, we can make more conversations that encourage parents to reach out and get in touch, and not be isolated." Susan and the Federation share this goal - to help families connect with each other, and with a variety of services and supports.

Susan graciously offers this song as a gift to all families who are raising a child with special needs (as well as others). Download "My Different Son" at www.susanwerner.com/mds.html. Additionally, Susan is helping to raise awareness about the work we do at the Federation by including information about the Federation on her Web site. We are grateful to partner with Susan, a true friend of the Federation and the families we serve, in raising awareness about the challenges and joys families experience in raising a child with special needs.

If you want to connect to another family whose child has special needs, please call Family TIES of Massachusetts. Learn more about this statewide parent-to-parent resource and information network.