Being a parent of a child with significant struggles has made the journey of parenting...unique. Though at times, it has been hard and heartbreaking, it has turned out to be a great adventure that has changed my life forever. It has deepened my faith and has taught me huge life lessons.
My husband and I have been very blessed to be surrounded by a fantastic circle of people who have supported us and have showed our son a tremendous amount of love. They are our helpers and our heroes!
Here are the gifts friends and family have given us through this journey:
1. THE GIFT OF BEING INTERESTED
Friends and family from all over the world will text, call, or email us to ask, “How’s Silas?” As parents of a child with a severe speech disorder and complex developmental issues, it is incredibly encouraging to know that there others who are concerned for our son too. When they ask us to share our son’s journey with them, it makes us feel less alone. One of the greatest ways you can show friendship to a family who has a child with special needs is to simply be interested in how things are going for the family and that child. A simple text or phone call can speak volumes of love and care.
2. THE GIFT OF ASKING AND NOT ASSUMING
I would much prefer others ask about Silas’ difficulties instead of just assuming they know what they are. Assumptions can give a totally inaccurate picture of what my child’s unique special needs really are. This causes misunderstanding and hurt. Our friends and family have been very diligent to ask questions when they are unclear as to what Silas can and can’t do. For example, Silas is hearing impaired, so it’s easy to assume that he is deliberately not listening to instructions when that may not be the case at all. You can give the gift of asking and understanding to parents of special needs. This shows that you care enough to take time to truly understand my child’s unique difficulties, rather than throwing all children into the category of “special needs” without knowing the sprecific struggles.
3. THE GIFT OF CELEBRATING
It has been invaluable for me to be able to celebrate with my friends and family the progress Silas has made over the years. I remember Silas saying the word “school” clearly to a friend over Skype and she nearly burst into tears with joy. He had been practicing the word for weeks and was pleased to show her his hard work. It blessed me that she genuinely rejoiced with us. I love how others will cheer him and go out of their way to congratulate him in his accomplishments. Celebrating the accomplishments and milestones with the parents and the child who has special needs is a tremendous gift.
4. THE GIFT OF GIVING HOPE AND NOT OVERLOADING INFORMATION
Sometimes it is hard to maintain hope as we journey through Silas’ difficulties. Often, I am tempted to worry about his future and give way to fear. What has helped me is when friends step up and speak hope over my son. With the best of intentions, people have heaped mountains of information on us. Typically, this has not been helpful. A friend from church recently told me that she has “great hope” for Silas and looks forward to seeing the man that he will become. Her words strengthened me more than any journal article that a well-meaning friend might have sent me. Words of hope are powerful and stick to the heart…give them generously as a gift to the parents of a child with special needs.
5. THE GIFT OF PRAYER
It seems too obvious to mention, but it is so seldom done. My son needs prayer. I need prayer. I remember a friend praying for me after I saw my son being made fun of by some other children. I was heartbroken and needed God to help me forgive and show me wisdom to help my son deal with this. My friend’s prayer was so crucial in that moment of pain. Sometimes a hug is not enough. Sometimes I am so wearied by the journey that I need others to cry out to Jesus on my and my son’s behalf. Offer this precious yet mighty gift to the parents of a child with special needs…it can be a lifeline.
Community is important. We were never created to be alone. I am grateful for the circle of wonderful people who have walked with us as we journey with our son. It has been God’s greatest gift to us.
Noelle Rhodes is married to her best friend, Troy, and 'mama' to two of the most hilarious human beings to exist: Silas and Olive Pearl. She and her family reside in Derry/Londonerry, Northern Ireland, as missionaries. When she is not wrangling her children or beating her husband in a game of Scrabble, you would probably find her doing laundry. Noelle blogs at Coffee with Noelle.