8. Fast and pray for guidance from the Lord
President Hinckley counseled: “Never assume that you can make it alone. You need the help of the Lord. Never hesitate to get on your knees in some private place and speak with Him.” (Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, May 2004, 114)
Be specific in your prayers. Pray to find a school where your child will have the best possible learning experiences. Ask the Lord to guide you to teachers who will truly care about your child, and pray for them daily to understand and help your child. Parents of special needs children have told stories of miracles that resulted from praying in specifics.
A parent told of how praying for her child to respond appropriately to a wanted friend brought about a sweet friendship that lasted until the friend moved away three years later. Tiny miracles to make the journey more joyful will happen as you pray in faith for specific needs.
President James E. Faust said, “As we live on earth we must walk in faith, nothing doubting. When the journey becomes seemingly unbearable, we can take comfort in the word of the Lord: ‘I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold I will heal thee’ (2 Kings 20:5). Some of the healing may take place in another world. We may never know why some things happen in this life. The reason for some of our suffering is known only to the Lord.” ( James E. Faust, in Conference Report, Oct. 2004, 21; or Ensign, Nov. 2004, 21)
9. Be realistic about your feelings
Talk to a close friend or family member about your concerns and feelings. There will be times, many times, when it’s hard to see the blessings or to have the faith needed to carry on. It’s good to have a place where you can let it all hang out, then wipe away the tears and press forward with renewed strength. Enjoy the supporting hugs from loved ones. Every hug helps.
Ronna Saunders, mother of a teenage downs son dealing with difficult surgeries, wrote: “Let’s be honest…for every person who says, ‘You must be so special to be entrusted with this child, I just don’t know how you lift this burden.’ It’s okay to NOT feel special. I don’t feel special, and my child is not a burden! He’s my child, and we do what needs to be done. Just like every other parent, with every other child. Yes, there are different needs, but still you do what needs to be done, and you thank God every day for helping you make it through the day! Love yourself, love your child, do what needs to be done ?? and pray everyday for guidance.”
A mother of an autistic child, Keri Bailey, said, “I find I have to step back, take a deep breath and then deal with the situation. I also have to put my daughter in her room for her to cool down. When I don’t take these simple steps I really regret what happens. A cool off moment for both of us is a well needed thing.”
An important point to remember is, when you’re feeling like a failure cut some slack for yourself. This is a hard job—darn hard! Frankly any parenting is a hard job, put especially this kind. You will make mistakes. That’s just part of being human. When mistakes happen and discouragement sets in let these words from President Hinckley fill your mind: “Be believing, be happy. Don’t get discouraged. Things will work out.” (Gordon B. Hinckely, Ensign April 1997) Memorize this and hold on to the promise.
10. Take care of yourself
You can’t do all things yourself. Allow others to help you. If you become run down and over burdened, you will get sick. You must take care of yourself, give yourself breaks from the constant need to assist your child. You have special needs, too! Don’t ignore them. Sometimes what is needed may be lunch out with a good friend, or a trip to a massage therapist for a good old-fashioned rub down to get rid of stress toxins, a relaxing bubble bath, or a regular date night with your husband. Call your friends or family to help make these moments possible for you. Do a trade with them.
Know your limits. Talk about it with your spouse. This has to be a team effort or your marriage will suffer, causing the whole family to suffer, which brings us to the next point.
11. Keep your marriage strong
Parents of a disabled child need to make a decision, as do all married couples, that their marriage is their highest priority. Paying attention to the needs of each other and carrying the responsibilities of parenting together will ensure a solid marriage.
Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D. reports that “[Many] couples who have a disabled child report that the experience of working together for the good of their children strengthened their relationship and gave life new meaning. With work and love, your partnership can be in that group.
“Researchers have found some common themes among couples who are able to stay together in spite of adversity. Long?married couples are committed to the vows they made (for better or worse). They look at problems as something to solve, not as a reason to bail.” (psychcentral.com/lib/2006/married?with?disabled?children)
A couple with two severely disabled children reported that they made sure to accept offers of help from other family members and friends. This allowed them time to go on a weekly date to dinner, a movie, or some other entertainment. It strengthened their marriage and gave them the renewed ability to carry on. Couples must focus on their marriage and keep it strong. The whole family will be blessed as a result.
12. Look to the future with hope
You have no way of knowing the possibilities that lie ahead for your child. By opening small doors along the way that help your child grow and develop you will be opening future doors that will allow your child to bring about much good in the world. Your encouragement and faith are vital for this process.
In her article “Six Myths about Members with Disabilities, Laurie Wilson Thornton wrote: “Consider the bishop who presides over his ward from a wheelchair, a Relief Society sister with an intellectual disability who serves with great pride in the nursery, a woman with hearing impairments who teaches Sunday School, and a man with no hands who serves as a patriarch. A high councilor stated: “I am blind, yet I’ve had major callings in the ward and stake. People relate to me as a person—the handicap doesn’t get in the way. This wasn’t always so; it’s taken a few years to accomplish.”
All things worthwhile take a few years to accomplish. It takes dedication and perseverance, then the blessings come, whether here or in the life hereafter.
The song “The Promise” by Janice Kapp Perry, gives us an eternal perspective worth considering.
1. In that place before our birth
Did you volunteer to come to earth
With many special trials to overcome?
And when that choice was made
Did I raise my hand in perfect faith
And plead to have and hold you as my own?
Did I promise I would lead you safely home?
Now we struggle here on earth
Trying hard to hear God’s guiding word,
And wonder if He’s left us on our own.
Then softly through the veil
Comes a feeling that I know so well,
Because I knew you could not walk alone.
I promised I would lead you safely home.
3.Then on some bright future day
Will I see things in a diff’rent way,
When I remember who you really are?
And will I come to see
That you paved the way to heav’n for me
By helping me to grow and overcome?
Did you know that you were leading me back home?
Back home to love and light,
Where heaven’s blessings are assured.
Back home to walk with angels in the presence of the Lord
Where we can be together in glory yet unknown,
Because we brought each other safely home.
(From CD and Songbook Far Different Places )
“President Joseph Fielding Smith explained that “all spirits while in the pre?existence were perfect in form, having all their faculties and mental powers unimpaired. ¼ Deformities in body and mind are ¼ physical.” (Answers to Gospel Questions, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith, Jr., 5 vols., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979, 3:19.) Physical means “temporal”; temporal means “temporary.” Spirits which are beautiful and innocent may be temporally restrained by physical impediments.” (Thornton, Ibid)
Do all in your power to enjoy your child here and look forward with hope to a glorious resurrection when all things will be made perfect.
Our final comment to parents giving this counsel
As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, we know what it is like to have a special needs child. Now that our daughter is a mature adult we can report that many good things have happened along this journey with her. When she was a struggling child we never dreamed, nor did doctors, that she would ever marry. But she did. She met a man, also mentally challenged but less than she, and they were married in the temple and experienced many years of happy times together. After 12 years of marriage he passed away. It was sad indeed, but the Lord blessed and comforted her in His tender and merciful way. The trials go on, and we have learned, so do the blessings. When she was young we expressed our feelings in a poem. Here is the last verse of the poem—words that still give us hope today.
Dear Lord, give me the discipline
To help my child know how to win.
Then a still small voice
Speaks loud enough for just my heart to hear it,
“Within your child’s restricted frame
Lies a great and noble spirit.
Learn from her, nurture her,
With all your heart and soul.
And one bright day beyond this time
She’ll rise up well and whole.”
We close with this scripture: “Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation. For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand.” (D&C 58:3-4)