What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story, email me.

What I want you to know is about my daughter. She came to us as a foster child at age 2. She was exposed to meth and alcohol in the womb. When she came to us she was ANGRY and she screamed and raged for hours out of the day. At 4 she was diagnosed with ADHD, ODD and FAE(Fetal Alcohol Effect) and soon after we adopted her. We dreamed of having a daughter to complete our family. She joined our 2 sons and became the baby of the family.

I want people to understand that not every child with special needs looks different. My daughter is beautiful. She has golden hair and sky blue eyes.  She also has a brain that just malfunctions sometimes. When you see us in the store and she is in total meltdown don’t give me nasty looks. Don’t tell me that all she needs is a little discipline. When I tell you she has been diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder don’t laugh and say, “Is that what they call a brat nowadays?” Yes, it happened!

When I am out in public don’t tell me I am “too hard” on her, that she is “just a kid.” She is not just a kid. She needs boundaries at all times. Yes, I parent my children differently. My boys had the privilege of a healthy start in life. Their brains are healthy and normal. I don’t love her less because I am stricter with her. I love her enough to parent her in the way that is best for her. Even if it goes against my normal style of parenting.

Have some patience with us in public. Don’t assume you know a situation. Maybe when you see a Mom with a kid in total meltdown in public, instead of judging, give her a smile. It may make her day! It may give her the strength to keep helping her child grow to be her best! Special needs kids aren’t contagious. They want what all kids want. They want to be loved and accepted.

BTW- My daughter is 7 now. She still has issues but she has come so far! The fits are so much less often now, she is attached and last year in 1st grade tested at a 5TH GRADE reading level.

For more information about the effects of Fetal Alchohol Syndrome, visit the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome