By KD Reep
Renee Hohn knows how to multitask. A farmer’s daughter from northeast Arkansas, Renee manages raising two sons, Carson and Lewis, and working full-time as a single mom in Saline County. She may be constantly in motion, but Renee has her priorities in line—her sons and their healthy development. Her younger son, Lewis, deals with some emotional issues, which are being addressed both at Friendship Community Care in Bryant and at home. This is how she and her sons manage their busy lives.
What is your day-to-day like? I get my boys up and ready for school, drop them off then head to work by 7:30 a.m. I then pick them up a little after 5 p.m. Once we’re home, and if there are no band events, I fix dinner, make sure homework is getting done, try to pick up around the house, watch a show on TV, put Lewis to sleep, make sure Carson is finished with homework and not playing video games, watch the news, go to bed and get ready to do it all again.
Your son attends Friendship Community Care. What is his diagnosis, and what kind of programs and therapy does he receive there? Lewis is 3-years-old and extremely intelligent with no speech problems, but he developed or starting showing signs of over-stimulation anxiety when his pre-kindergarten class doubled in size. He became aggressive, agitated and cried uncontrollably because he didn’t want to go to school. He also suffers from poor impulse control and opposition defiance, and he has some emotional issues that, more than likely, come from his dad abruptly disappearing from his life. Friendship was a godsend. They have smaller class sizes and certified teachers who genuinely care about our babies. They are patient, teach him coping skills and embrace his spunky personality.
When did you get his diagnosis? What was that like? I have known since he was 8-months-old that he was more sensitive to his environment and others moods than most people. So many of his symptoms are actually very normal toddler behaviors; his are just a little more exaggerated. I was relieved to find a place that could actually pinpoint what he needed and love him right where he was and through the process.
As a single mom raising a child with special needs, what obstacles do you face? How do you overcome and deal with those obstacles? The hardest thing is being away from him 10 hours a day. Happy Lewis is the first half of the day and right after a nap. After working nine to 10 hours each day, I come home to Tired-and-Mad-at-You-Because-You-Left-Me Lewis. My oldest son is a great help, but having a toddler and a teenager has its own challenges. Doing it on my own means no breaks or “me” time, which makes outings hard when Lewis is in rare form and doesn't want to go anywhere. I have to occasionally miss a band concert or competition that my oldest is involved with or make them only to end up sitting in the car until they are over because my little man decided to throw a screaming fit to get on the stage or the field with his bubba. The weekend is my favorite time because as long as we have no major band event, we watch cartoons, play, snuggle and just enjoy each other.
What is your support system like? I don't really have much of one, outside of school. My friend, who was Lewis’ first babysitter and also the mother to his best friend, helps more than anyone by picking him up from school for the hour-and-a-half left before I can leave work. One of my sisters who lives 45 minutes away from us will always be there if there is an emergency or no other option, but she also works full time, has a husband, four kids and a church youth group that keep her busy.
What is your favorite thing about being a mom? The unconditional love they have for me, that my kisses are magically healing to a boo-boo, and knowing that God trusted me enough to be their guardian, protector, counselor and mother.
What do you all like to do as a family? How do you spend time together? Tickle wars, singing and dancing silly around the house. During the summer, we live at the pool every extra moment we have.
What do you want people to take away from your story? Special needs are not always visible, and all children are special and deserve to be loved and supported. Being a single mom and juggling so much responsibility, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and exhausted, which can steal your joy. Don't get sucked into the negative, but take every moment available to laugh, love, sing and be silly with your kids.