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.