This special brand of parenthood — raising kids with ADHD and/or high-functioning autism — is hard, ya’ll. But I don’t have to tell you that. You know all too well, too. That’s how you got here, reading this post.

Most people just don’t understand how overwhelmingly mentally, emotionally, and physically taxing it is, unless they live it.

My son is 14 now. He started zapping my energy in the womb. Really. As an infant, he had to be snuggled tight all the time to be at peace. As a preschooler, trying to keep up with his never-ending go-motor felt like I was trying to run the New York Marathon, without exercising a day in my life.

Once he got to kindergarten, the proverbial sh*@ hit the fan. Now being his momma meant more than just physical exhaustion — now he was a square peg in a round hole of a school, and mental and emotional exhaustion (severe emotional exhaustion) were added to the mix. Not only was I always on high-alert to keep up with him, but now I had to withstand constant teacher complaints and watch my son do everything but naturally succeed in school.

Over the years, we’ve tried 2-3 other schools (private and charter) to find that those schools were worse, and created more stress and sadness for this sweet, bouncing boy.

Over the years, we’ve tried many, many medications, in countless doses and combinations, and battled through severe side effects like aggression and violence, and even psychosis (don’t freak out, my son is extremely sensitive to medications).

Still I Rise: Parenting ADHD and AutismAll the while, day after day, I work to remind myself to live with purpose and gratitude. To know that things get better. To recognize what a strong and resilient woman (momma) I am. Some days I just couldn’t get there, I’m not gonna lie. But most days this was a helpful tool.

And so, nearly a year ago, I decided it was time to get a tattoo to frequently and permanently remind myself that I will get through the challenge du jour. I will pull myself, and my sweet boy up, no matter what it takes. I have always loved Maya Angelou’s prose, especially her poem, Still I Rise. And, so, that was the inspiration for my tattoo.

I’ve also found Andra Day’s song, “I’ll Rise Up” very inspirational as well.

Indeed, still I rise.

Still I Rise poem, and it's meaning to special needs parents

Author: Penny Williams

Penny Williams guides and mentors parents raising kids with ADHD and/or autism. She’s the parent of a son with ADHD and autism, and the author of three award-winning books on parenting kids with ADHD: Boy Without Instructions, What to Expect When Parenting Children with ADHD, and The Insider’s Guide to ADHD Penny is the current editor of, Founder and Instructor for The Parenting ADHD & Autism Academy, and a frequent contributor on parenting and children with ADHD for ADDitude Magazine and other parenting and special needs publications.