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 had told us. He still 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 parent 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.
I hope to share some thoughts that will give you courage to press on.
1. 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 over-preparation. 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.
2. 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 there's someone out there who will bear this burden with you. And, it doesn't have to be a person who has a child with special needs. You can receive great encouragement from those who are willing to listen and be there for you.
3. 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.
For me personally, 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.
What have you done to keep walking the path of special needs parenting?