“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. (Luke 11:9-10 NRS)
While the special needs world can feel isolating, many times there are people in our lives who want to reach out in a meaningful way but are unsure what to do. At times concerns about causing offense or being intrusive create barriers to understanding. Bridging the communication gap with special needs families can open the door to supportive resources that improve family and personal resilience. Jesus teaching to ask, seek and knock ring true. Here are a few suggestions that may help improve understanding of the world of a special needs parent:
- We can use help from time to time, but may feel uncomfortable asking for it. It doesn’t have to be something big. Even a small gesture like picking up a prescription at the store or meeting a child as they get off the bus can be a big help. If a family has a child with fragile health or impaired mobility, having a list of folks to call on can be a life saver.
- We need friends. Special needs parenting can be isolating due to differences. We appreciate it when people make the effort to reach out. It is hard for us to do so because we often receive rejection.
- We like to be included. At times our families have a hard time being part of activities due to physical, intellectual or behavioral differences. We may be hesitant to try new things. It’s nice to be invited and then welcomed if we feel brave enough to try something new.
- We need to talk. An important part of coping well with stress is being able to share with others. It helps process feelings. It is validating to be heard.
- Our “normal” family day may look different than that of other families, but it is neither tragic nor heroic. It is simply different.
- We don’t mind answering questions. A great way to build bridges is simply to understand the differences with which we live. Approach the discussion from a positive perspective rather than, “What’s wrong with…?” Perhaps try, “Since your son is non-verbal please teach me how to communicate with him,” or “I would like to have your daughter over for a play day and I understand she sometimes has seizures. Can you teach me what to do if that happens at my home?”
Gracious God, help us share our story in a way that others can hear and understand. Amen.
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