Are you looking for a way to care for a special needs family in your life?
Congratulations. Because you already have the desire to assist that family, you have all the qualifications needed to relieve the unseen burdens that go along with caregiving. It really doesn’t require a lot of time or money. Parents to children with special needs do not need much from you to help them thrive. But they do need help. Even if they are not asking for it, these families carry an unseen mental load that can often be alleviated by a caring friend.
Here are 5 ways that you can step in and care for special needs families:
Oftentimes special needs parents are so caught up in the everyday caregiving of their child that the act of picking up their phone to have a chat with a friend can seem much too daunting. However, to receive a call from a friend will brighten their long day. This may seem selfish, but they will put off reaching out at the risk alienating their friends with the constant conversation they are having with themselves about their child’s needs. Because they are surrounded by caregiving and everything that comes along with it, they may have a hard time finding anything else to talk about. Trust me, seeing your name show up on their cell phone will give them a chance to exhale and all you have to do is be there to listen.
God gave us two open ears. The longer I am on this autism journey, the more I understand why. The friends that have been there for me and have possibly made the most impact in lifting my spirits are the ones that have been there to listen. You may not know what to say but that is okay. Most of the time we just need to vent about our worries and struggles. We don’t need to be “fixed.” We just need another adult in our lives that can stand there and hear what we have to say without judgment.
3. Run Errands
If you’re looking for a more active role in showing kindness to a family with a child with special needs, running simple errands for them is the answer. Whenever my son was younger, he was at risk of eloping. There was no quick trip to the store because of the risk of a meltdown or him running out into traffic. These situations are much too stressful for the parents, so they just don’t go. There have been times my bills have been behind just because I couldn’t make it to the post office to get a stamp. If you’re going to be there anyway, try calling and offering to pick up some essentials for them while you’re there. If they assume you’re making a special trip to the store just for them, they won’t allow it. Special needs parents do not want special treatment. They just need a little bit of extra help. Make it clear that it is part of your plan for your family already and that way they won’t feel like it’s putting you out in any way.
I admit that this has been a big one for our family. My son has autism and cannot clearly express his needs. Friends have offered a hand for caring for him so my husband and I could catch a date night, but it seems impossible for us to do. If it has been laid on your heart to help out a special needs family in this area, please be patient with them. If you are determined, you can form a plan that will help you meet their needs. You could offer to come to their house to sit with your child. Opening up your home so that their kiddo can become familiar with you and the new environment will help, too. Keeping an open line of communication and understanding is important. Letting them know clear dates that you will mark off just for them will give them a better chance at taking that much-needed step so they can care for their own marriage. It may not happen after the first few tries but stick it out with them. One day, it will come together and you both will be blessed.
When we first received our son’s autism diagnosis, we would not have been able to tell you how to help. We were trying to help ourselves and wrap our heads around our new world. If you know a family in the early stages of a special needs diagnosis, ask how you can pray for them. This does not put any pressure on them and they will be thankful that someone cares enough about their child and their situation to pray. Look for clues within their prayer requests and there may be an opportunity for you to meet their physical needs. Again, special needs parents will put off asking for help. Prayer is a great start to building that relationship and meeting their future needs.
Offering any type of service to a special needs family is beneficial to them. The key is sticking it out with them from the beginning. They will soon be able to articulate their needs and when they see your judgment-free desire to sincerely help them, you can be there to help lift the load.
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