“When we arrived at Johnny’s incubator there was an elderly nun standing next to him and talking to him. When Joann got to her feet to see Johnny the nun turned and said; “Are you his Mother? He is so sweet, and just think God chose you to be his mother.” To my wife, this petite nun was the angel God sent to minister to her. That sweet lady reassured Joann that God had blessed her with this special child and that he had such a sweet personality. At the time Joann thought, “How could she know that?” However, that nun’s words were prophetic. We certainly have been blessed. Johnny had the sweetest personality of anyone we know.”
The above passage is taken from the first chapter of the book my wife, Joann, and I wrote about the blessing and responsibility the Lord gave us in raising our son with Special-Needs for 28 years. In the midst of our sorrow, God sent the perfect person to show us, that although this child isn’t what we expected, he was exactly what God had chosen for us. We were chosen for a special task, a work that very few people have the privilege of doing. That is, being the parents of a child with Special-Needs.
August has been declared “Special-Needs Parents Appreciation” month. Having been a parent of a child with Special-Needs myself, I guess I could be accused of being biased, but I firmly believe that these parents are doing the Lord’s work!! The children they are raising are not only blessings to their families, but to the entire community around them. Their extended family, their neighbors and friends are all impacted by the lives of these special children. They are teachers in the classroom of life. They love unconditionally, they teach us patience, they demonstrate strength in spite of frail bodies. These children are truly a gift to all those they come into contact with, if people will take the time to get to know them.
These special children have parents that are just as special. Raising healthy children in today’s world can be quite challenging. Those that are raising a child with Special-Needs today have an extra set of challenges that they must deal with. They must face the everyday trials that we all face, plus the extra care and responsibilities that come with being a care giver; The car still breaks down, the bills still come every month, the other children still need attention. There are many times that the parents of a child with Special-Needs can be overwhelmed. However, they carry-on, doing the things that are necessary for the care of their child. The world around them gets the benefit of the work these brave parents do.
I would like to suggest a few ideas of how we might show these special parents our appreciation.
- Recognize. Let them know how much you appreciate the work that they do. If you know a “Special-Needs Parent” thank them for caring for one of the gifts that God has given you. Maybe your church or organization can set aside a moment to recognize the contribution these parents give by caring for their children, and sharing them with us all.
- Reach out. Try to help them. Most parents of children with Special-Needs don’t get many breaks. If at all possible try to give them some respite by sitting with their child while they go out for a dinner together. I know that sometimes there is specialized medical training needed that would prohibit others from caring for the child, but even going to a doctor’s appointment with the parent would be a blessing to them.
- Realize. Special-Needs families are under a whole different level of stress than a “normal” family is under. I have read that about 80% of marriages that have a special-needs child in them, end in divorce. That is because of the added time constraints and often the financial stress that comes along with caring for your child. No one is in need of sympathy, but some patience is certainly in order. Parents learn that life moves at a much slower pace with these special kids. The rest of the world needs to understand that also.
I just wanted to show my appreciation for those Moms and Dads that are daily facing challenges that most people will never know. You are doing the Lord’s work. You have been given a special calling from God. He will give you special strength to face each day. Please accept the gratitude of a Dad that has been there, and know you are blessed in the midst of your struggles. You are special parents.
John and Joann Ashley’s book is available on Amazon.com click the link below to get more information or to purchase the book.