There is a group of people who hold a special place in my heart. From the girl grinning from ear to ear as I led her on a horse to the boy with the dimpled smile and quick feet. From the man who washed dishes and picked up trash to the little old lady who folded pizza boxes and loved getting cards in the mail. From the little boy struggling to learn how to speak to the young woman who loves purple and Jesus. From the young girl in the wheelchair to the little boy who looks on with wide-eyed anticipation. All these people who hold a corner of my heart have one thing in common. They are people with special needs who have been a part of my life at one time or another.
And because they hold a special place in my heart, here are a few things I think you need to hear about children with special needs.
If you are the mom of a special needs child…
Your child was knit together by the hand of God, and God chose you to be his or her mother. God chose you to be the one to love your child through all the difficulties, all the victories, all the challenges, all the precious moments, and all the scary days. God chose you to be your child’s champion, to be the one who does battle against whatever limitations are before you in order that your child may have an abundant life even if life requires a little tweaking.
I know there must be times your soul gets weary from the responsibilities, the diagnoses, the appointments, the extra everything. There must be days you feel the lack of community and long for someone to reach out to you. I pray you will draw strength from the Lord and for a friend who will laugh with you, cry with you, and everything in between.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
If you are a church leader or volunteer…
Welcome these children with open arms and open hearts. Just because they may come with different needs, don’t exclude them. Invite them to be a part of what you are doing to the greatest extent they are able.
Know their needs so you can meet them. Ask their moms questions. Do a little bit of research to understand what it is that they live with every day. Don’t just be “handicap accessible.” Be special needs friendly.
I know truly welcoming children who have special needs requires more from you—more planning, more helpers, more energy, more patience. But these children are God’s children. Their souls are every bit as important to God as any other child’s, and, therefore, they should be just as important to you. In one of his parables, Jesus said,
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:40
Learn from them. Children with special needs have a special outlook on life. They see the beauty in the simple. They worship with complete abandon. God doesn’t always send them to you so that you can teach them, sometimes he sends them to you so that they can teach you.
If you are another parent…
Teach your children what it means to love everyone and to treat everyone with kindness and respect. In a world where children can be downright cruel and bullying is common, teach your children to stand for what is right. Encourage your children to befriend the children with special needs and to help others who may need assistance.
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12
Come alongside the mothers of the children with special needs. Yes, your day to day lives may be different, but you are all mothers and each of you loves your children with every ounce of your being. Share a cup of coffee or a meal. Listen. Check in after the latest appointment. Basically…be a good friend to her. You might just find you need her as much as she needs you.
Just because someone has special needs doesn’t mean they are less than, it just means they are different. Rather than looking at what someone can’t do, watch what they can do. Look in wonder at the world through their eyes. Take a lesson in friendliness from them. Worship with the same abandon they do. Take the time to truly get to know them. Above all, love them just as God loves you.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34
If you open your heart to these children with special needs, you might just find them stealing a place in it.