Having a son or daughter with special needs transforms us. There is just no way around it—we are shaped and chiseled from the inside out. It’s a process not without pain, but the ultimate rewards are great. Here are ten ways that a special needs child will change you forever:
- Perspective shift. There’s something about having a child who is struggling to master simple language, develop motor skills, or maintain basic health that changes your perception of things. Now, whether or not you get a new pair of shoes to wear to the Brewster’s Christmas party doesn’t seem to matter anymore. And that old argument with your sister seems petty. (Or at least it should.) The things that truly matter most… family, love, and service, become much more apparent.
- Compassion. Once you have dealt with the pain and worry of a scary diagnosis for your child, you suddenly understand how other people in the same predicament must feel. Now, rather than divert your eyes from the child in the wheelchair at the mall, you’re likely to smile, and nod to his parent. There’s a deep bond you can form with other parents who have traveled the same road. And when you hear stories of someone close to you whose child is having problems, you feel a stronger longing to connect and reach out. You don’t think, “I’m glad that’s not me,” you think, “What can I do to help?”
- Patience. A special needs child requires a considerable amount of patience… whether you are putting up with terrible behaviors or teaching a new skill. It can be long, grueling, thankless work. You feel that if your kid has one more tantrum you’re going to lose it. You’re frustrated that she needs so much constant attention. But as your patience is stretched to the limit, it also increases.
- Unconditional Love. Your special child has taught you that looks don’t matter when it comes to your ability to love. And you’ve also learned that’s it’s possible to love someone with other imperfections. This realization can help you personally feel more worthy of love, and you might just be better able to love yourself and forgive yourself of your shortcomings. All of your own foibles can be put into the proper perspective. After all, is love about meeting the world’s expectations? Or is it devotion to another human being…a willingness to share the journey of life with all the obstacles that may come along the way?
- Joy in the Little Things. When my son Kyle first wrote his name I broke down and cried. I had predicted it to take much longer, and when he wrote those clumsy letters on the page my heart leapt. “He wrote his name! He wrote his name!” With my older son, this feat was an expectation, and just another notch on his accomplishment belt. It didn’t bring me the joy I felt when Kyle had done the very same thing. With a special needs child, every little goal achieved is a reason to celebrate. Even smiles have more impact.
- Abandoning Ego. Before our son or daughter is born, we envision him or her being a “mini-me” who looks just like us and has near super-abilities. When we learn this is not going to be reality, we have to let go of our own over-arching ego. Just because our child is different does not mean we are less worthy human beings. It doesn’t mean we have flawed genes or that we are hated by God or the forces of the universe. We can see ourselves as unique and separate from our child while still loving him and being devoted to meeting his needs.
- Spiritual Growth or Openness. When we feel more humbled by our circumstances, we’re more likely to seek answers about our connection to a higher being and the cosmos. We have a stronger desire to feel that someone or something else is in charge and we are being cared for and guided at a distance.
- Seeing the Inner Person. Since we know that our own child is much more than what other people see on the outside, we’re also likely to get to know the inner-traits of others. Even children who don’t speak often have an incredibly powerful soul that can impact people. We learn to see past the outer shell and look deeper.
- Becoming less judgemental. It’s hard to be as critical of people when you see your own limitations as a parent so clearly. And since you’re already learning to love your child unconditionally, you are automatically less likely to judge people for their shortcomings.
- Life has more purpose. With your child’s diagnosis, you are immediately plunged into seeing the plight of others firsthand. Even though your child’s symptoms and prognosis are unique, there are others who are walking a similar road. Now it becomes more important to help promote research. “These children need help! Why isn’t more being done?” You probably didn’t care much about these causes before. But now you’re an instant advocate who understands that every individual can make a difference.
There are few experiences as refining as raising a child with a disability. As you help this little person find his way, recognize that with all your struggles and heartache, you just might be increasing and expanding your soul.
Kristyn Crow is the author of this blog. Visit her website by clicking here. Some links on this blog may have been generated by outside sources are not necessarily endorsed by Kristyn Crow.