7 ways to help parents of special needs children
When a crisis or abrupt change of life occurs, it can be difficult to express our needs. It’s no different for parents with special needs children. Depending on the needs of our child, we may get better at navigating the changes of routine, Dr. appts, surgeries, and special education, but we never get to a point where we don’t need help. Asking for help can be difficult for many reasons. Many times we’re not sure what we need. Other times, we don’t know how to ask, and other times we feel guilty for the asking. Today, I will share 7 ways to help parents of special needs children. If you have an idea to add to my list, please post in the comments. I love the participation of all our readers.
Take the time to get to know their individual needs
Parents with special needs children need to navigate the world differently than you might expect. When I am invited to an event, my brain starts racing. I start evaluating if we should accept the invitation or not. Will my child have access in his wheelchair, will the lights be too bright, or the sounds too loud, will there be too much stimulation or games he can’t participate in or won’t enjoy. If I say yes to this event will he feel included or excluded? I don’t expect others to know what our needs are, but you can bet your bottom dollar I know the people who have taken the time to understand our needs and consider them before planning an event. They didn’t ask me 100 questions; they are friends who spent time with us and asked questions in a nonjudgmental, conversational style.
Be careful what you say
Whoever said, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” was dead wrong. Words do hurt. If you notice something that is out of order, think before you speak. Some people speak out of nervousness. It’s okay, I get it, but my son doesn’t understand. After Danny had his G-tube surgery, I remember telling the surgeon one of the best benefits of the G-tube over the NG tube is that no one can see it. I can go grocery shopping and not have anyone stop me to ask, “What’s wrong with you son?”
Don’t get me wrong, this is a question I don’t mind answering, but in front of my son, in the middle of the chip isle well, that’s just a little weird.
Pray for them
Having friends you know you can send a text to that says, “pray” is huge! I can’t tell you the times we’ve been in the hospital, and I have needed prayers. I didn’t have the time or the emotional energy to explain why but I had friends and family I could text and knew they wouldn’t drill me for details but they would faithfully pray! Be that friend who can say, “I don’t need to understand what’s happening. Write when you can. In the meantime, know I will be faithful to pray” and then do it!
Help with Errands
There has to be a level of trust built in the relationship for someone to let you come in and clean their toilets, at least in my house there does. When people help me with errands around town or projects around the house, it has been an incredible blessing. It’s easy to feel like you’re always behind in something. If you’re on top of doctor appts, then you’re drowning under the laundry pile. If you’re on top of house cleaning you’re behind in making dinner. It’s a vicious cycle at times, so make yourself available to help with any errands you can do.
Bring a meal
Bringing a meal is especially helpful when there are surgeries or extra stresses on the family. You don’t have to be the next Paula Dean to be appreciated. I know it can be challenging to take a meal when there are multiple dietary needs in the home. It’s not unusual for parents with special needs children to make different dishes for different family members at every meal time. It can be overwhelming. To have a “night off” because a friend took time to bring a meal is a huge blessing.
Send a Card (maybe even include a gift card)
In our digital age sometimes we forget the value of a card received in the mail. It’s nice to go to the mailbox and see a handwritten note from a friend. You don’t have to write something profound. Just saying, “I was thinking of you and wishing you a beautiful day” would be a blessing. Those random notes of encouragement, even when they have been digital, have always meant a great deal to me.
Send a Gift Card
If you send a card like suggested above you might want to include a gift certificate. It doesn’t have to be a gift card for an expensive dinner it can be a gift card to Amazon, iTunes, or even a simple five dollar coffee card would be a gift so they can treat themselves to a coffee.
This list is not exhaustive, and I’m not speaking on behalf of everyone. So please, take a moment to comment and share your ideas on how to help. Together, we can make a list that can be a help to others.
Until our next chat,
Mr.s. Joseph Wood