Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Tuesday Tidbit: How to Relate When You Can't Relate: Some Tips for Connecting with Parents That Have Children with Special Needs
Here are a few things that I recommend if you want to relate to someone that has a child with a special need but haven't been through the same experiences.
1.) Ask questions.
I really like it when people ask me questions about Levi. Want to know when we expect him to walk or if he'll grow out of his breathing difficulties? Just ask. Several people have! I like that they are not afraid to ask, and I enjoy the opportunity to teach someone something new. It gives me a chance to be an advocate for my little boy.
2.) Interact with the child.
It sounds silly now, but when he was first born, I worried that people would be afraid of Levi. It means a lot to me when people want to interact with him. I love it when people come over to say hello and give him high-fives when we walk into the church building. When he gets older, he may not have speech that is easily understood. If that is the case, it will mean even more when people make an effort to interact with him.
3.) Be there.
Sometimes you don't need to say a word. Just listen. Be around just the same as you've always been. I have had people overdo it with positive predictions of Levi's future, and that is just not necessary. We don't exactly know what his future holds, and that is perfectly okay.
4.) Get involved.
Simply standing behind Levi's banner at the Buddy Walk has been one the best ways our friends and family have supported us. Very few words were spoken on the day of Levi's first Buddy Walk, but everyone there spoke volumes. Through their very presence, people were saying, "We are here for you. We may not understand what's ahead, but we are right beside you." I get choked up just thinking about it.
My brother is now coaching a Challenger League baseball team for kids with all types of special needs. We've had people give books and toys to help Levi work on his therapy goals. You may even want to do some research on the special need. After the Buddy Walk, a family at church told me they looked at some information online to help educate one of their children that was asking questions about Down syndrome.
A friend at church about ran me over this Sunday to find out if I had read Kelle Hampton's book, Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected, which just came out. The book is a mother's story about having a daughter with Down syndrome and all the beauty it brought. My friend said that after reading the book, she feels like she can understand me better and has a better understanding of Down syndrome. She even told me she was kind of jealous of me for having Levi. (Which is not the first time I've been told that!)
While it means a lot to have friends that also have children with Down syndrome that can truly relate, I have also been blessed with friends that have been comfortable enough to step out of their comfort zones and make an effort to support us even though they aren't in "the club." I am so grateful for the way our family and friends support us. Thank all of you for the multitude of ways you love our family. We are truly blessed!
And because I don't like writing a post without including a picture...
So, those of you readers that have children with special needs, what advice would you add? I'd love to get some discussion going in the comment section.