meet my buddy, naomi gal. she is a sweet spirit and a fun follow on instagram fo' sho.
i love her perspective because her son with special needs is a bit older and you've heard from some of us that have younger special needs kiddos. so here goes!
1) give a brief explanation of your child's special need and age.
My son is 10 and was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome at age 5. Between the age of two and six he received weekly therapy for developmental delays, mainly speech. He responded so well, and went from hardly speaking to one of the chattiest kids in kindergarten. At 10 years old, he's now considered a high-functioning case, meaning he is able to function independently in schoolwork and general life. His struggle is mainly in social areas - learning to filter his thoughts before speaking, having empathy for others, understanding non-verbal cues, etc.
2) what is important for me to know about your child?
He's not weird. Yeah, his brain might work a bit differently, and sometimes he might have outbursts and do/say things that seem strange. But he's not a weird person. He's actually a really cool kid. With so many strengths. Aaaand he's super smart. (is it ok to brag sometimes??)
3) what is something that is deeply hurtful about interactions with others, pertaining to your child?
He can be aggressive at times. Like, he doesn't always understand boundaries, personal space, or his own strength. When he was younger, playing with a group of kids usually meant he would get blamed if someone got hurt. Sometimes it was his fault, but many times it wasn't. He occasionally got labeled "the bad kid" and wouldn't be invited to things. It was devastating for me, to watch him be misunderstood like that.
3 and 1/2) can you think of a super positive interaction with other people, in dealing with your child, that left you smiling?
After living in the same town for a decade, we recently moved and he started a new, much larger school. Change can be difficult for him. I worried how he would fit in. But he was accepted so warmly into his new class, and his teacher immediately fell in love with him (not realizing he had any type of 'syndrome'.) She recently told me he's a well-loved leader among his peers and she wishes she could clone him and keep him forever. I mean. Happy tears rolling down this mama's face. He also recently played in a school floor hockey tournament, which is a pretty huge deal considering we didn't know if he could ever function as a cooperative teammate in a team sport. Afterwards, his coach told me that he was one of the best players and he loved having him on his team. And then I beamed the biggest beam.
4) what is helpful from me when i interact with your child?
He's incredibly perceptive and doesn't miss a thing. So when you interact with him, respect him, just like you would anyone else. He deserves to be included and connected with, like any other kid. He's not the greatest at conversation, and sometimes won't look you in the eye, but if you can get past the awkwardness, I guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised with how interesting he is and how awesome he can be. For me, as his mother, I have found the answer to positive interaction comes down to this: love him harder and respect him more.
5) sometimes i don't know what to say. what are good questions to ask about your child?
It's so nice when people are interested in my boy. It means the world to me. I don't mind lots of questions, even personal-ish ones. Some good ones: What are his interests? His giftings? How does he interact with his siblings? What's it like raising him? What challenges do you face? What does a good day with him look like? A bad day?
6) what do i do when your child is acting out and i'm standing right there?
My son is emotionally unpredictable. He sometimes still has meltdowns. Even public ones. I know it's terribly awkward for everyone. It's especially embarrassing for me - it's my kid. I think it's important to remember that this might not be a typical tantrum situation. It's different. I'm aware that people might be judging me, and it kinda sucks. My advice? Be compassionate and kind and just wait it out. "This too shall pass." :)
7) how has the gospel intersected your experience with your special needs child?
My child is passionate, energetic, wild at heart. Many times I try to restrain him, try to quench the wildness, try to tame him. But I forget, that often the wild ones carry the deepest capacity to love. Jesus shows up in his passion, in his extravagant love. And I'm blown away that God would show himself to me through my son. And that he would chose me, in all my imperfections, to raise him. I've also had to rely on His grace and His strength more than ever before, and that has led me to the cross - over and over again.
8) what are some ways i can help you?
Label or no label, children are children. Worthy of love, simply because they are alive. Life is meant to be celebrated, in all kinds of beautiful ways. Let's not let labels get in the way. Because really, we could all be labeled as something. Control freak. Workaholic. Stay At Home Mom. Working Mom. Introvert. Extrovert. We all just need Jesus. And we all need real relationships. We allneed support. Let's "bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ". Which is pretty much just... MORE. LOVE.