parents magazineParents of kids with autism are buzzing about the cover of a national parenting magazine -- but it's an issue all parents should be reading. The April 2014 issue of Parents magazine features a child with autism on its cover, the first time for a national, mainstream parenting magazine. In the history-making cover, 5-year-old Daniel Molina looks out into the distance while his 3-year-old sister, Chloe, grins at the camera. It looks like a typical day for both of them, but for so many parents, the sight of Daniel is exceptional. 

Imagine being the mom of a special-needs child and never, ever seeing other children like your own featured prominently in the media. It would make you, and your child, feel somewhat invisible, don't you think? This is slowly changing. Last February, Parents featured a toddler with spina bifida on its cover, making her the first special-needs cover girl on a mainstream magazine.

But it's not just the cover that has parents talking. The issue includes a 24-page section on "Living in a Special-Needs World." Parents partnered with a research company to interview 500 moms of children between the ages of 3 to 12, about half of them parents of special-needs kids, about raising their children in the U.S. It's a conversation the magazine hopes will interest all parents.

Almost 1 in 6 children in the U.S. reports having a disability, Editor-in-Chief Dana Points says. And 1 in 88 has autism. This is why, she says, "it's important that all parents better understand how their children are co-existing in our schools and communities. By sharing experiences, cultivating understanding, and maintaining an open dialogue, every parent can help kids of all abilities thrive."

So as exciting as this cover is for parents of children with autism, it's an opportunity for all of us. There's so much that parents of more typically-developing children don't understand, especially if we don't have close friends who are parents of special-needs kids. Some of the differences in our parenting experiences divide us -- but it doesn't have to be that way if we'd just care enough to learn more from each other.

Cara Birnbaum writes in the magazine, "In the end, the big picture the survey revealed is that there is no one big picture. Life in this special-needs world is colorful, enlightening, challenging, unfair at times, and a little messy. Just like childhood." That's definitely something all parents can relate to.

And maybe someday, having special needs kids on the cover of a magazine will seem totally unremarkable. Mom of a special needs son, Max, and blogger Ellen Seidman cheers Parents magazine for leading change, but adds, "It'll be significant progress when kids with disabilities in ads or magazines are no longer a big deal since that will mean it's typical."

How well do you feel like you understand life in the special needs world?