Previously posted/newly updated and re-posted on THIS our NEW website/blog!
READING TIME @ 3.5 minutes
“Special-needs kids are not sick, gross or stupid. They only want what we all want: to be accepted. Can I make a request? Is anyone willing to post this & leave it as your status for at least an hour? It’s Special Education Week, and this is in honor of all the kids God has made in a unique way.” (Facebook post 2010)
If you’re socially connected on the internet, you’ve probably seen this post on Facebook. As a mother whose son has special needs, I’ve not yet posted it. Not that there is anything wrong with that statement because I’ve certainly worked these past 30+ years of his life to educate others as to the worth of those with special needs, and the need for others to be truly accepting of them. I haven’t posted it because it’s not quite hitting the mark for me.
Those if us whose children have special needs certainly want our children to be accepted, but that is a word rather than an action. Let me explain. I John 3:18, “…let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.”
My son is precious to me. If you say you “accept” him, I’m delighted. But when you walk away, I only know your words, not your heart. What allows me to understand that your words held some weight and what would show me your heart of acceptance is what I see if you talk to him, how you treat him, help him, care about him. It goes beyond not making fun of someone with special needs. It goes to the heart of helping and accepting and showing it.
How willing and ACCEPTING are you to those in your life who have special needs:
- Have you caught yourself saying things like, “Wow, what a wasted life – she just lies there,” “Even though she can’t respond, I wonder what thoughts and emotions are going on in her head that we just can’t know because she can’t express it. She would probably have such grand things to offer.” On which train of thought do you run? There lies the answer to how truly accepting you are of those with special needs.
- Are you willing to move out of your “comfort zone” of life and help?
- Can you hug, appropriately touch, or shake the hand of the one with special needs and say “hello”?
- Would you be willing to wipe drool from a chin; change a diaper on a teen with special needs?
- Have you considered visiting a child with special needs in the hospital so the family could step away for a bit? (Hospital stays for those with special needs are frequent.)
- Would you offer to stay with a special needs child so the parents could go out for a cup of coffee, a dinner, or go away for a weekend?
- Volunteer in a ministry at church that cares for those with special needs so their families can enjoy a service uninterrupted?
- Stop over and play a video game with the one with special needs, or read them a book, or watch a movie with them….
- Invite them to join you in something you enjoy-a sports game (if they’re able to go), a walk (even if you walk them in their wheelchair), and a movie (if they’re able to handle the stimulus of a big screen, the loud noises, etc.), or even a meal…
- Invite the family for dinner. (In all my son’s years I can name the families who have asked us over for a meal including our son. There are but a handful.)
- Offer make a meal and come over for a visit. (Friends did this for us and we were thrilled!)
- Offer to do something for the family that is not easy for them to do? EXAMPLES: shovel their drive if they can’t leave their loved one alone; offer to grocery shop because their 10 year old can’t be put into a cart; bring a meal when you know they’ve had a rough week; offer to do dusting or vacuuming or any household chore once a month, planting a garden, cutting grass….
- Visit the family when you know they’ve not gotten out for days, weeks, or months.
- So you wonder how to make this happen? Here are a few thoughts:
When you begin to think about how you’d like to be treated, you’ll find that these families, like mine, are not much different than yours – we just don’t have the same freedoms. We can’t just pick up and go and our time is not our own. If you’re looking for a way to show that you are accepting of the special needs child – humble yourself, pick up the phone, and call the family.
- Offer what you can with what you have. If you can offer once a week, once a month, once a year…your offer will likely seldom be refused. We’ve learned to take what we get.
- If you’re not sure what to offer as far as help, ask them. Share with them if you’re not comfortable with something or if you’d need to be trained. They’ll help you learn.
- Ask God to supply you with what you don’t have – stamina, patience, or acceptance -we do it every day.
- Pray for them. Their job is 24/7 and for many, they will do it for a lifetime.
As you enlarge your understanding of the one with special needs and the needs their families have, you will be learning and showing how to accept them. Families caring for someone full time aren’t expecting grand things. They are looking to find a new normal to their everyday life and for people who will accept what that is for them -amazing acceptance, challenge and work. They are looking for others who truly accept their child, their station in life, and someone who can understand the tremendous challenge it can be.
Putting actions behind your words will show not just say, you’re “accepting.”