By Kelly Carr
Raising any child is a challenge. Parents often evaluate how well they did to make sure their offspring ate healthy meals, got plenty of exercise, did their homework, got to extracurricular activities on time, and spent time in prayer.
But some parents add to this checklist doctor appointments, hospital visits, and meetings with physical/occupational/speech therapists. Not to mention filling out school forms for individualized education plans, making sure to set up play dates in an accessible environment, and raising awareness on behalf of their child’s diagnosis.
My friend Robin has two children. Her son, Myles, is completing second grade and is in school with my daughter. Her daughter, Megan, is 4 and has Down syndrome. I asked her to share her perspective for those of us who aren’t in her shoes.
“I feel just like everyone else—but with more paperwork to keep track of! I would like people to know there is really nothing special or magical about us parents. We love our kids unconditionally, just like any other parent. There is nothing about me that makes me especially equipped to be Megan’s mother, except that I love her. Just like with Myles. Having to take Megan to all her therapies and appointments is just like when others have to take their children to appointments—but much more frequently!
“I have been asked if it hurts my feelings to hear other people talk about their children reaching milestones, and the answer is no. Every child develops at his/her own pace. Megan moves quickly through some stages and slowly through others. It only bothers me if it seems to bother her.
“I want people to know that I love to hear about their personal connections with Down syndrome. I also love to be approached by other parents with questions. I think both of my kids are amazing, and I’d talk about them all day if I could!”
Robin went on to say that the local Down syndrome organization “is wonderful, and we have made lifelong friends because of it.”
Support & Encouragement
I have a number of friends who have children labeled “special needs.” Their kids have everything from dyslexia to ADHD, from autism to Rett syndrome, just to name a few. I can’t imagine what thoughts went through these parents’ minds when they first heard that their children had a “diagnosis.” It sounds so stark. So hopeless. So restricting. Some admitted to me that they felt confusion, fear, and heartache.
Yet they didn’t stay that way. Love and hope give them strength. Having support and encouragement make all the difference.
When you meet my friends’ children, their restrictions don’t stop their spirits. The kids don’t act hopeless. They act like kids. They laugh and smile and play. There is passion in their eyes and love in their hearts. Yes, they have to work harder than many of their peers, and that makes them even more inspiring.
You will read about other parent perspectives in this issue. Allow their stories to challenge you. Pray about ways you can encourage, include, and come alongside families in your life, no matter their needs.