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To the Ones Who Reached Out to My Child

My son was just trying to make conversation, but it was very one-sided. If he’s passionate about something, he will talk your ear off, regardless of your opinions on the subject. Clearly, the other child on the receiving end of this information overload just didn’t get my son. “There’s something wrong with his brain,” I overheard him say to someone else, and I realized he was talking about my child.

At that moment, I wanted to cry but controlled it to spare myself from being the center of attention at a public place. I wanted to scoop up my child, put my arms around him, and shield him from any hurt, intentional or unintentional, that will come from this world.

But I know putting him in a protective bubble is not what’s best. As cruel as the world can sometimes be, there are people God has placed in my child’s path to reach out to him, and you are one of them. You may be thinking, “Me? What did I do?”

You greeted him.

A simple “hello” goes a long way. Far too many of us are preoccupied with our own world or the world being displayed on the tiny screen in our hands, that we fail to look up and notice the person right in front of us, who could use a simple smile to brighten his day.

You listened to him.

Not only did you say “hi”, but you asked the loaded question, “How are you?” Perhaps, you were not expecting a detailed catalog of all the Minions and their unique characteristics or a list of voice actors from The Lego Movie, but you looked at him and listened to it all.

You hugged him.

I think this assures him of acceptance by you. Isolation is his fear, as is the case with many of us, so a handshake, a hug, or a high-five allow him to experience the human connection that any person seeks after.

You invited him.

He seemed content to be alone, but you went out of your way to invite him to sit with you. Honestly, social situations are still challenging for him, so he probably felt awkward about accepting the invitation. Nonetheless, you took a courageous step with a seemingly simple kind gesture.

You became his friend.

He doesn’t have very many friends. In fact, if you asked him who they are, he would list names of family members … brothers, sisters, mom, and dad. But you … he mentioned you. You became his friend.

Approaching someone who’s “different” can be intimidating. I understand that. After all, if you’re not crossing paths, why take the detour to intentionally go to that person? Why risk the potential awkwardness of the encounter? Would it even make a difference?

Yes, it does … it certainly does.

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, Trusting God

The Day He Rode Without Training Wheels

“Mommy, I did it! I rode my bike!” Though I could not see his face, the enthusiasm in my son’s voice came through loud and clear over the phone. Doctors had told us early on that delays in Gabriel’s speech development could also mean delays in other areas, such as motor skills. Play dates at the park confirmed this, as I watched my son struggle to climb the jungle gym, while his younger sister whizzed passed him. Eventually, he improved, and he could climb as well as any 8-year-old. But, one thing that he was still not able to do was ride his bike without training wheels.

Even as a preschooler, he had a difficult time riding his tricycle, preferring to move that thing around with his feet, like the Flintstones. Graduating to a bicycle was another huge hurdle for Gabriel to overcome, but training wheels gave him confidence. He had the biggest bike with training wheels at the park, and I wondered if we would ever be able to remove them.

DSC_0010.JPGYesterday, my husband took him out to go bike riding. By God’s providence, one of the training wheels came off as he was riding. My husband decided to leave it off and encouraged our son to keep riding. When he could tell that Gabriel’s confidence was growing, my husband told him, “Son, I’m going to remove the other wheel. Just give it a try.” After a few minor falls, Gabriel was riding around the parking lot with no training wheels. A couple of bystanders watched and cheered on both father and son. One of them, an older gentleman, said to my husband, “Now that’s something to remember!” And after that parking lot ride, I received the phone call from Gabriel. I wish I could’ve recorded his voice and play it back for you all to hear. He was gushing with excitement. I could not contain the tears of joy, for Gabriel’s accomplishment reached deep into my heart.

I’m just like Gabriel. Timid, anxious, and afraid to fall. I want my training wheels because they keep me steady, but God knows when to remove them. He will keep me steady. And as I entrust myself to Him, I will discover that all along, He has always been holding me up.

 

(Photo credit 1: Lotus Carroll)
(Photo credit 2: billjank)

Community, Homeschool

Picture Day

105 - School Picture Day

School picture day is usually a highlight for most students. I remember standing in front of the bathroom mirror weeks before the anticipated day, practicing my smile. Big or half smile? Open or closed mouth? Which one is my best side? Don’t tell me I’m the only one out there who did this.

Earlier this week, our homeschool group held its annual picture day. Gabriel took his individual shots like a pro. We waited around for everyone else to finish, and then the call to gather all the children for the group picture came. This is when the tides began to turn. The children were told to line up from tallest to shortest. Obviously, the older children knew what to do, but the younger ones, like my kids, looked very lost and confused. The chatter amongst the adults and children grew louder, and when Gabriel tried to call me for help but I didn’t hear him, he started to lose it. Rearranging the students around is to be expected, but when the photographer kept changing the spot where Gabriel was to stand, that put him over the edge. In the middle of a sea of children, there was my Gabriel, frustrated and crying. God, please help me, I silently prayed as I tried to calm him down. When everything was done, the walk back to the car seemed endless. No longer able to hold back my own tears, I found myself wishing things were different.

What good came out of this? I asked God to open my eyes to see His good, the good that He promises to work together (Romans 8:28). My own tears seemed to blur any hint of good, but The Lord wiped the tears away and showed me.

During the incident when Gabriel was crying, a boy his age reached out to him. “It’s okay, Gabriel,” he comforted. Afterwards when the children dispersed, this boy approached Gabriel and gave him a hug. But my son wasn’t the only one who was the recipient of some needed encouragement. Two mothers approached me at the parking lot, hugged me, and prayed with me. This was the good that God intended from a difficult situation: He showed me love through the selfless actions of others.

When we see someone in emotional distress, it’s not always easy to approach that person. We don’t want to get involved. We are at a loss for words. We are fearful of making it more awkward and worse for that person and for us. Often, we find it easier to turn the other way. The boy and the mothers did the harder thing. They came to us. And we were blessed by it.

We turn toward others and move in their direction. That is how the kingdom of heaven works. Sin scatters people; grace draws us toward each other.*

*Quote by Edward T. Welch (biblical counselor and author)
(Photo credit: Holtsman)