Top Senate Candidate Opens Up about Special-Needs Son

New Hamp­shire Gov. Mag­gie Has­san’s 27-year-old son, Ben, has cereb­ral palsy. He is wheel­chair-bound and can­not speak or feed him­self—and his con­di­tion is what mo­tiv­ated Has­san to first run for of­fice.

Ben con­tin­ues to shape her polit­ic­al per­spect­ive as she em­barks on a U.S. Sen­ate run against in­cum­bent Re­pub­lic­an Kelly Ayotte. It’s ex­pec­ted to be one of the most closely con­tested Sen­ate races of the 2016 cycle, and will be crit­ic­al in de­term­in­ing which party con­trols the up­per cham­ber come 2017.

In an in­ter­view with Na­tion­al Journ­al, Has­san opened up about how Ben has im­pacted her life, the con­tinu­al pur­suit of work-life bal­ance, and the arc of her polit­ic­al ca­reer.

Some of it was just be­ing in­volved with the plan­ning with Ben’s school about how he would be in­cluded and how his edu­ca­tion plan would be im­ple­men­ted at the school level. Be­cause it’s one thing to put in­ten­tions down on pa­per, and it’s an­oth­er thing, not only to mar­shal the re­sources to sup­port those in­ten­tions, but also to work through lo­gist­ic­al chal­lenges of work­ing with edu­cat­ors who maybe have nev­er dealt with some­body with the level of dis­ab­il­ity that Ben ex­per­i­ences. So I star­ted really in just my role as his mom.

I gradu­ally got more and more in­volved in ad­voc­at­ing for a level of ser­vices, or bet­ter put—sup­port—out­side of the school sys­tem. So for ex­ample, when you have a child who ex­per­i­ences severe dis­ab­il­ity like Ben, while they are in school be­cause of the IDEA (In­di­vidu­als with Dis­ab­il­it­ies Edu­ca­tion Im­prove­ment Act), there are a lot of ex­perts, sup­port givers and pro­fes­sion­als who are work­ing with your child. Out­side of the school day, that still was very, very chal­len­ging, and on some level it still is. So if you are a par­ent and you need to work and you can’t find an after-school pro­gram of week­end activ­ity for your child that al­lows you to keep your sched­ule for work, that’s a real fin­an­cial chal­lenge to the fam­ily.