It has been 13 and a half years since David’s stroke. I will never forget sitting in a little family side room staring at the MRI picture of David’s brain. The Pediatric ER doctor pointed to a large, black area of David’s brain and informed us that was the area which had been affected by the stroke. In that moment I wanted to punch the man. I had never had that feeling before and I didn’t know whether to throw up, run out, or bawl. No matter my feelings, I knew in the blink of an eye my life had changed. I was now the mom of a child with a disability. We didn’t know what David’s disability would look like, but we knew there was a long road ahead of us.
In those moments, and in the time since, we have been surrounded by friends and family who have embraced us and David’s disability as we have walked this path. We are so grateful. Community always makes it easier, no matter what hardship you are walking through. And, let’s be honest. We all face hardship.
Recently a young mom asked me, “How do I teach my children to love kids with disabilities?”
There are a lot of practical ways to answer that question, and yet, one very simple, absolutely crucial answer. I’ll start with the simple answer and follow with a few practical ideas.
The simple answer is to show love. That seems cliché, but honestly, what families with special needs children need is a lot of love. Teaching your child to love those who are different is a task that all parents are called to and it begins with the parent. Parents must be able to see a child with a disability and then be intentional in showing that child, and that child’s family, love.
Here are a few practical ways people have shown our family love:
- Meeting physical needs: Right after David’s stroke, and really until he was about 4, we had to be in Lubbock for appointments 2-3 times a week. People were so faithful to help in so many ways, bringing food, giving gift cards, etc. I am not necessarily talking about something that was organized, although that did happen. I’m talking about people hearing from the Holy Spirit, calling and asking if they could bring us dinner, or gifting us in other tangible ways. It was always at just the right time and such a sweet expression of Christ’s love to our family.
- Including David: When you have weakness on one side of your body, every physical activity is more difficult. You cannot carry a plate of food at a birthday party or open your own juice box. You are not able to ride a bicycle in the neighborhood with the other boys, and people often have to adjust their plans or activities to meet your needs. I was always so grateful for friends who would call and honestly ask, “Can David come over, and what do we need to do to help him?” Although that can be a bit uncomfortable to address, it is so helpful to the child with special needs and their family.
- Giving a needed respite: Raising a child with special needs is constant. It is hard to explain unless you are doing it. I am so thankful for my family and a handful of friends who were happy and willing to keep David and care for him so Brad and I were able to have a few days away.
- Speaking words of life and truth: I cannot tell you the number of people who have prayed for David. We have received cards from all over the world. At first it was hard to hear these prayers of concern, largely because of my own disappointments. However, even in my less than grateful response, people continued to pray and believe for David. What joy it brings when people speak words of assurance and blessing over David. His life is different than we imagined it would be when we brought him home from the hospital, but he is the perfect gift that God intended him to be and he will continue to be as he grows and walks in the paths God puts before him. To this day we have a dear doctor friend who believes in David’s complete and total healing. To say the least, it is always refreshing when David sees him.
This post just scratches the surface of our life with David. My prayer is that people will always see those in need and respond in the way God is calling them to respond. Early on God showed me a verse in Proverbs 31. I think it directly speaks to those with a disability and how we should respond.
Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.
David is a normal 14 year old who has minimal limitations, for that we are grateful. But we are surrounded by so many who have extreme limitations. Let’s be sure we are always an expression of Christ’s love to them.
We would like to thank Julie Snellgrove for writing this post!