Community

Why My Path is Different From Yours

I know better than to compare my son to his peers, who have no special needs. But the desire for affirmation, to know that we’re ok (because most days, it honestly feels like we are all but ok), has often led me to the comparison trap, even comparing my child and myself to other special needs families. Though some of us, who have children with special needs, seem to walk side by side, we each have our own path to follow. And even though I might know what it’s like to walk in your shoes, it’s good to know we are hiking along different trails.

At a time when you don’t want to feel alone in your hardship, why is this a good thing?

Special Needs Mom, Don't compare.

Because We Are Different

I’m a checklist-dependent, time-obsessed, overly organized control freak. But that all changed when I had children. The constant changes that come from having children in your life fought against every part of my Type A personality. And the way I handle my son’s special needs may be different from the way you respond to yours. But that difference could be useful. When I face the same battles day in and day out, my reactions can sometimes be on auto-pilot. But seeing how a friend handles her special needs child allows me to see these challenges from a different angle and perhaps change my responses for the better.

Because Our Children Are Different

The world of special needs covers such a wide spectrum of disabilities and challenges. Some are physically exhausting, while others zap your mental energy. Some disabilities are visible, while others are only apparent to those who get close enough to notice. Some children are high-functioning with the potential to be more independent, while others will likely need assistance for the rest of their lives. We can find hope, encouragement, and inspiration from each other’s stories, but it makes no sense to compare our children’s progress. Their successes will occur at different times and to different degrees, and we will celebrate them all.

Because God Works in a Variety of Ways

It had been a while since I checked my social media feed, but something gripped me, pierced me right in the center of the most tender part of my emotions. Not at all prepared for the sudden outpouring of tears, I strained to hold them back until I relocated to another room, away from any possible inquiry from my children.

What I read was a brief account of a child with special needs, who had made leaps and bounds beyond what others expected. The post was full of hope and rejoicing and did not warrant the sorrowful reaction I gave it. But for that moment, I grieved. I grieved for the mountains that my own child had not scaled, the doors that were not opened for him, and the obstacles that remained in his path.

But my husband wouldn’t let me dwell too long on the comparisons, knowing it’s an exercise in futility. He reminded me that God is working in that family as He is in ours. It won’t look exactly the same.

We are different.

Our children are different.

But we have the same God, working in a variety of ways to bring about the same glorious outcome.

“On earth, the underside of the tapestry was tangled and unclear; but in heaven, we will stand amazed to see the topside of the tapestry and how God beautifully embroidered each circumstance into a pattern for our good and His glory.”
~ Joni Erickson Tada

Family Life

5 Lessons My Children Are Learning From Their Brother’s Special Needs

I have 5 children, but only one of them has special needs. Sometimes I’ve wondered what life would have been like if we only had our son. Perhaps, I would’ve been able to focus on certain aspects of his needs if he was our only child. But then, I consider that each member of our family has had an integral part in the growth and development of our son. And as I ponder this even more, my children have been able to glean important life lessons because of their brother’s special needs.

Lessons on Patience

This is probably the big one. As children get older, effective oral communication becomes more vital in relationship building. Communication being one of my son’s weaknesses, you can imagine that friendships with his peers are rare. If you stick him in a playground full of kids of all ages, you will likely find him running around with the toddlers.

When other children his age can simply ignore him, his siblings can’t do that and still live under the same roof. But to do that peaceably, they have to learn patience. Patience when he can’t fully express what he wants. Patience when he misunderstands them. Patience when he repeats his questions multiple times and expects them to go along with it.

Lessons on Sympathy

Tied to patience, my children are learning how to sympathize. Without sympathy, the appearance of patience is, in reality, like a covered pot that can boil over at any second if left over the heat too long. True patience is motivated by a genuine sympathy for the challenges of another. When a child has a difficult time asking me a question at the dinner table because of too much chatter from the others, it’s an opportunity to remind them that their brother faces that struggle everyday but at ten times the volume.

Lessons on Impartiality

I love how our 2-year-old girl claims no favorites among her siblings. She spends time with each and every one of them without partiality. When the world can be so cruel to the ones who dance to a different beat, I’m thankful for the acceptance and love that my son can receive from his sister. Little ones don’t struggle with this. They have no perception of “differentness” in people. It’s a valuable lesson my older children are learning when they realize that sometimes they may have to forego playing with 5 friends in order to come alongside their brother in need of one friend.

Lessons on Prayer

We face challenges daily, multiple times each day. This is not a runny nose that lasts only a few days. This is our life. And though our son thrives on repetition and requires predictable routines, changes in his anxieties and obsessions abound. And we are all affected. No amount of expert help can sufficiently ease the burden that this has presented for our family. Our children must learn that as often as we are met with these trials, so should our meetings with God be.

Lessons on Love

Shortly after an especially upsetting confrontation with their brother, one of my kids tearfully expressed, “How could I love someone who is being mean to me?” And though my heart ached for my child’s frustration, the Lord gave me the perfect opportunity to give the perfect answer.

“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” ~ Romans 5:8

My children may manifest patience, possess sympathy, display impartiality, and utter prayers for their brother, but he can still hurt their feelings. How difficult it is to love someone who is most unlovely! But on the cross, Jesus did.

Does your special needs child have siblings? What lessons do you want them to learn?

5 Lessons My Children are Learning from Their Brother's Special Needs

Community, Coping with the Challenges

The Needs of the Special Needs Mom

When we found out that our child had some severe developmental delays, it was the beginning of a very long and tearful journey. Is this your reality? Or perhaps you know someone whose dreams for their child have taken an unexpected turn.

Though the world may applaud her for her sacrifices and dedication, in reality the mother of this child has some special needs of her own.

The Needs of the Special Needs Mom

She needs a break.

After homeschooling a child with special needs for the past 7 years, one thing has remained consistent: this kid requires A LOT of breaks. But the mother needs breaks as well. Tension can rise quickly even during the most simple conversations. Hitting the pause button or even switching activities can prove invaluable.

She needs time away from her child.

Sometimes a short break is not enough. Because I spend almost every waking moment with my child, I am physically and mentally exhausted before day’s end. I’m thankful when my husband will sometimes take our son out before we both become completely unglued. On a more extreme case, my husband recently whisked me away to the beach for a couple of days because he knew stress levels were high in the home. Even though I resisted the idea (not because I hate beaches, but because the control freak in me didn’t want to leave my son for that long), it was a necessary time to recharge. If you have a friend in this situation, you can offer to take her kid out or, perhaps, she would appreciate it more if you took her out.

Want to know the story behind this photo? Click here.

She needs a listening, sympathetic, and compassionate ear.

Sometimes this mom needs to let it out, vent if you will. She wants to talk about how daily tasks are a common battleground, how she feels like she’s not doing enough to help her child, how it’s hard to join play groups, and how the frequent meltdowns are enough to keep her from leaving the house. She wants to talk freely without judgment. Though there is a place for a timely word of encouragement, sometimes she just needs a friend who will listen and weep with her.

She needs encouragement.

I’m going to be honest with you. Encouraging words for someone struggling in this are not the easiest things to come by. Should you tell her you can relate even though you don’t have a child with special needs? Should you go the practical route and suggest something from a parenting book you just read? Should you tell her everything will be ok or things aren’t that bad? Though meant well, sometimes these responses can sting the open wounds of an already hurting mother.

But don’t shrink back from reaching out to this mom. She needs you to be a true friend, even if you are not in the same situation as she is. The best encouragement I have received have come in the form of a prayer, a Bible verse, or simply “I love you.”

Do you have a child with special needs? What do you need right now?

Family Life, Savoring Simple Moments

7 Amazing Powers of a SuperMom

We’ve all heard the term: “SuperMom”. What exactly makes her “super”? Can you really put her in the same category as Captain America, WonderWoman, or Superman? Perhaps you’ve cringed at being addressed as a SuperMom. You wonder how you could rightfully claim such a title, being well aware of your non-kryptonite-induced weaknesses and failures.

But even though Mommy may not feel like the superhero the world makes her out to be, her children see through different lenses. And I think upon closer observation, they will notice Mommy has some rather amazing powers.

7 Amazing Powers of a SuperMom

1. Her kisses make the booboo’s go away.

There’s just something about Mama’s kisses and cuddles that make all owies better. But even if a cut needs a little more TLC, Mommy seems to have a magical way of cleaning the wound and applying the perfect bandage.

2. She can produce a sweet treat at lightning speed.

Who can resist chocolate chip cookies? But how does she make them so fast? Little do her children know that she’s got tubes of dough stored in the freezer. But wait till she becomes a grandma … she’ll have the power to pull out all kinds of sweet stuff out of her purse to spoil any crying kid.

3. She can see from the back of her head.

She’s at the sink, washing dishes. So how did she know her little angel was trying to sneak a cookie out of the jar? Somewhere behind that tangled updo, she’s got a pair of eyes that never sleep.

4. She makes books come to life.

When she opens a book and reads, she transports her children to another world, where rhyming is normal, animals talk, and happy endings are guaranteed.

5. She knows. Before they can come up with an answer, she knows.

Don’t get caught in a mind game with her. She knows what her kids will do before they do it. And I would warn against any attempts of falsification. She’s a walking lie detector!

6. With one look, she can make her kids do what she wants.

Is there some invisible force behind those eyes? Maybe the secret is in that one raised eyebrow, hypnotically bringing her kids under her control.

7. Her tickling fingers have the power to render her kids helpless.

No, not the fingers! Must get away from them! They are worse than Kryptonite! And when she starts dispensing zerberts (aka, raspberries) on the tummies, it’s all over for these kids!

If you’re a SuperMom, what’s your favorite super power?

Perhaps you may not feel very super on some days, but I bet you, your littles think you have some pretty cool powers. Wishing all you SuperMamas a wonderful Mother’s Day!

Coping with the Challenges

To the Mom of the Child with Special Needs (Part 2)

It was about 5 years ago. I sat in the school’s office with my son, filling out enrollment paperwork. Though I hurried through the process, I wasn’t fast enough to escape an impending meltdown. We weren’t quite done, they told us. He had to take a photo for his school ID card.

What should’ve been a quick point and shoot moment was anything but that. That ID card, with the picture of his tear-stained face, would always remind me that the path ahead would have many obstacles to overcome.

Are you a mother of a child with special needs? Perhaps you can relate well to this story. Maybe you’re just beginning your journey, and you feel paralyzed, afraid to take the next step, not knowing where this road will take you.

In my previous post and in this one, I hope to share some thoughts that will give you courage to press on.

Stay Two Steps Ahead (+ Two More)

Even if you’re the most spontaneous person on the planet, when you become a mom, you will likely become the person, who instinctively prepares ahead.

But if you have a child with special needs, you need to stay two or more steps ahead. There is no such thing as overpreparation. Not only will you have a Plan B, but Plans C, D, and E will also be safely tucked in your mental files. Moreover, you will have to include your child in this preparation, walking him through every step ahead before it happens. Transition from one activity to the next is tough for special needs kids, but it can go more smoothly when you announce what is to come so that he has some time to adjust.

Seek Support From Others

The path you’re on can be a very lonely one. It’s so easy to get into the mindset that no one understands, but that thinking just leads to further isolation. You don’t have to feel alone. I know it can be risky to lay open your heart like that, but God may have prepared that friend to be the one, who will bear this burden with you. And, it doesn’t have to be someone, who has a child with special needs. You can receive great encouragement from those who are willing to listen and be there for you.

Spend Time Reflecting

When faced with the challenges of caring for your child, a number of thoughts spin around in your head … some thoughts are irrational, some depressing, and some even despairing. “Will I ever have a normal life?” That time needed to reflect is not to multiply more thoughts, like these. But rather, it is to intentionally meditate on the complete opposite.

I have spent a lot of time in earnest prayer and reading the Bible, so that I would see my situation, not through the eyes of a tired, frustrated, and inadequate mom, but through the eyes of a powerful, gracious, and all-sufficient God.

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”  (2 Corinthians 12:9)

If you missed Part 1 of this, click here.

Coping with the Challenges

To the Mom of the Child with Special Needs (Part 1)

I never thought I would be on this road, being a mother of a child with special needs. Actually, I take that back. A road is probably not the most accurate description because, often, it feels like a roller coaster. Nonetheless, this path that God has put me on has come with many blessed lessons.

If you are a parent, who has just received the news that your child has and will continue to have some specific, special needs, you may feel as though you’re caught in the rapids, trying to stay afloat, while the raging waters of information from doctors, therapists, specialists, and educators surround you and threaten to engulf you. It doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t have to be in despair.

Don’t Compare with Others

Ah, the comparison trap! We all do it, whether or not we have a child with special needs. But this is especially detrimental for the mom with the special needs child. “Special needs” implies they are on a completely different page from most kids their age, so comparing is an exercise in futility.

I used to always feel like I needed to get my child “caught up” and felt discouraged at the thought that he will always be “behind”. But caught up to what? Behind in what? Whose standards anyway? Is it in education? Motor skills? Social skills? It was stressful.

Your child’s milestones will be different from his peers and from his own siblings. An unhealthy preoccupation with the progress of others will keep you from focusing on your own child’s development.

Rejoice in the progress (no matter how small)

Sometimes it may feel like there’s no progress at all. It takes a bit of stepping outside of yourself and seeing your child from another vantage point to notice that there are changes. Perhaps recording them in a journal will help you see them and be intentional about searching for them. Don’t limit yourself to the great leaps and bounds. Progress is often seen in the small baby steps. Remember being overjoyed when your baby took his first steps. That doesn’t have to stop now.

Be Your Child’s Special Friend

Making friends will likely not come easy for your child, especially as he gets older. Party invitations might be rare, and play dates will probably be a challenge to arrange. I have wept over my own child’s lack of friends and wept even more when I realized he had matured enough to notice this too. 

I remember that at his own birthday party a few years ago, my son pulled me into one of the rooms away from all the guests, closed the door, and asked if we could play “I Spy” together. As much as I wanted him to be comfortable with everyone else, I was the one he really wanted to be with. I was his special friend.

You may be going through this difficult and emotional season in your parenting journey. Or perhaps you know someone who is. One of the hardest things for me is feeling alone in this. Will you share this with someone who could use the encouragement?

(Click here for Part 2.)

Trusting God

When Things Don’t Go as You Planned

I wrote this a couple of years ago on another site, but I thought it would be fitting and a good reminder because I’ve lost count how many times I’ve looked longingly at the rosy path from a distance, while God has led the way to the far different, rocky trail in front of me.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There’s a pile of papers waiting for me to look through. They’re not bills that need to be paid. They’re not my kids’ schoolwork that need to be put away. They’re not letters that need to be opened.

They are papers given to us by a doctor, a specialist in speech pathology and audiology. Why would I have papers like these on my desk? Because one of my children was diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder. So now, we have some decisions to make about therapy, education, and how all of that will affect our whole family. Honestly, it all gets overwhelming sometimes. Hence, the papers remain untouched on that desk.

When a woman first realizes there is this life growing and thriving inside her, there are no limits to her dreams. She dreams of rocking that baby to sleep. She dreams of holding his hand and never letting go. She dreams of showing him the beauty of this world and its Creator. Those were my dreams.

They still are, but the path to each looks far different from what I had imagined. I did not picture doctors, therapies, treatments, psychological assessments, and special needs consultants. But they are there, and I must accept that and believe that even though it’s hard to see sometimes, God will make something beautiful out of this.

I imagine that you probably have something like this in your life. Something that has not turned out exactly the way you planned. Something that you feel is out of your control. May I encourage you to receive it, embrace it, and make the most of it.

There are really only two choices: despair or hope. I have been in despair. It is a dark, dark place and a paralyzing state. But, hope in God is what enables me to keep moving forward and pressing on despite the obstacles before me.

What do you choose?

Family Life, Savoring Simple Moments

Reading to Children

Picture BooksAt a very young age, I was an avid reader. I would come home from the library with an armload of books. My love of books continued through high school, and it was not unusual for my parents to find me sitting in the living room in the middle of the night, lost in the pages of a novel.

After my children were born, the time to read became more and more scarce. I read to Gabriel a lot up until he was around 2 years old. Though I still had a desire to instill in my children a love of books, I found myself reading less and less to them. I’ve heard from other moms that reading aloud to your children above their level is good for them, but Gabriel’s challenges with language and attention span were enough to keep me from pressing on. I almost gave up.

After recommendations from a couple of friends, I bought a book called Little Pilgrim’s Progress by Helen L. Taylor. I had read John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress before, and I wondered if my children can handle sitting through this timeless tale. Upon closer inspection, I learned that Helen Taylor’s book is actually an adaptation of Bunyan’s classic, written from a child’s perspective.

“If John Bunyan were alive at the present time, I think he would forgive me for the liberty I have taken in attempting to unlock his treasury and to bring ‘that gold, those pearls, and precious stones’ a little nearer to the childish hands, which are always so ready to receive such gifts.” — Helen L. Taylor (Preface to “Little Pilgrim’s Progress”)

I looked at the sample pages online. It’s a chapter book with very little pictures. I had been wanting to graduate my children from the big picture story books, but I didn’t know if they were ready. Would they just tune me out when I read aloud to them? To their ears, would I just sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher? “Wah wah woh. Wah wah.”

I decided to take the plunge and began reading the book to them in the beginning of this year. What a wonderful treasure this book has been to me and to my children! During our lunch, I read to them a chapter from the book, and then discuss it over our PB & J’s. Even Gabriel, who still has difficulty with reading comprehension, is recalling many details from the chapters that we read each day. What I am most thankful for is that this book has opened up so many opportunities for me to share the gospel. Our conversations about the book has not been reserved for meal times only because the story has sparked so many questions in their minds about the Bible and Jesus Christ.

What began as a quest to get my children to love books more has enlarged to a heartfelt desire for them to love Jesus more. I had some plans, but God’s plans were greater.

 

Note: Remember that I was about ready to give up, but I was convicted by Ephesians 5:16 to make “the best use of the time” that God has given me with my children. He also used the following blog post to inspire me to take up this task once more. Perhaps it may spur you on as well.
How To Get Your Children Excited About Read-Alouds

 

(Photo credit: nickyfairless)

Blogging

A Year Ago

Point & ClickOne year ago today, I clicked “Publish” on my first post for this site. Before that day, I had been thinking about starting a blog like this for a while, but like I’m sure many of you have felt, I honestly didn’t think anyone would read it. Moreover, I didn’t know how much time I could really commit to writing. Was this going to be just another project I couldn’t finish? So, imagine my delight when I realized that this little piece of cyberspace actually reached its first anniversary!

I have wrestled with so many things, especially in the area of parenting my son, Gabriel. And I needed a place to write down what God was teaching me, not only through Gabriel but through other people and circumstances in my life. Prone to forgetfulness, writing has helped me to remember God’s Word better. It has caused me to think more deeply about what was happening in my life as part of God’s providential plan to bring glory to His name. In short, The Lord has been showing me it’s not all about me.

I could’ve just written all this down in a personal journal, but The Lord has placed in my heart a desire to share His lessons with others. They are not mine to keep and hide away anyway. Through blogging, God has provided another instrument to use for the exaltation of Jesus Christ.

I know not everyone who comes by and reads this blog is a mother of a child with special needs or even a parent or a Christian. But for whatever reason, you came. I believe God brought you here. I have prayed for you, not by name, but I have asked The Lord to use this site for His glory and bring whoever He wills. From the very beginning, it has been my hope that others would read, not merely stories and testimonies of a mother and her child, but an account of God’s goodness, faithfulness, and love.

“Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!”  (Psalm 115:1)

 

(Photo credit: PaT)

Community, Trusting God

The Nearness of God

Two Friends, One Beach

I have a friend, who is going through the most difficult trial of her life. A little over a year ago, her husband abandoned her, their marriage covenant, and The Lord. God has given me the privilege of being with her throughout this trial, listening to her, encouraging her, and praying with her. Recently, she said to me, “I’ve never been as close to God as I am now.”

Another sister in Christ shared with me a different kind of trial. This sister is just beginning her marriage, but she has been facing hostility from her husband’s family. They slander her when she is not present and refuse to acknowledge her when she is. With all this mistreatment, she has no idea why they hate her so much. In an email she sent to me, she wrote, “Although it hurts and I wish they wouldn’t be so cruel, a part of me feels closer to God …”

These two women are living examples of James 1:2.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds”

I am sure what they are having to endure is difficult. I am sure they desire a resolution to their trial soon. I am sure they hope and pray for a happy ending: that the husband who left would come to his senses and return to The Lord and his wife, and that the strained family relationships would be reconciled for this newly married woman.

Though they would wish to be under different circumstances, I am sure they would want one thing to remain: their nearness to their God.

The Lord has crafted the trial in each woman’s life in such a way that would give Him the most glory. As they draw close to Him and proclaim His steadfast love, His empowering strength, His abundant goodness, and His sufficient grace, He is glorified!

One coffee?So, here I am, trying to be a good friend to these sisters and help them in their time of need. But I am the one who has been encouraged in my own trial. The Lord has shown me by these women’s lives what true joy in the midst of a storm looks like.

I wish that I knew what exactly is going on with my son, Gabriel. I wish that we didn’t clash so much when we try to communicate with one another. I wish he got along better with his siblings. I wish he would stop all the repetition that masters him. I wish my circumstances were different.

But if, through this trial, God is drawing me closer to Himself, then I will wish no more. Instead, I will hope … I will hope in Him.

From this tangled mess of sin, frustration, doubt, and fear, God is weaving a beautiful tapestry. I can’t see it yet; I must wait … and when He has completed His work, people will behold His masterpiece and say, “To God be the glory!”

 

(Photo credit 1: Damian Gadal)
(Photo credit 2: Sheilasan)