I spoke at our MOPS (Mothers Of PreSchoolers) group today. I was so scared but it went really well!
I wrote out word for word what I wanted to say. My topic was 'What is the hardest part about raising a child with special needs?' I practiced saying it over and over.
We have a daylight basement with a great room, then a small bedroom that we've made into a den. (It had been Beth's bedroom but it's kind of dark and way in the back of the house and she didn't like it so now her bedroom furniture is in the great room.) I went into the den numerous times to practice.
Then I typed up just the outline and I practiced that. I gathered some pictures of Beth and our family; at the ocean, climbing trees, Beth as a baby, an adult; just so they could see who I was talking about.
Diana bought me a book in London called Keep Calm for Mums. Its filled with quotes about motherhood. I started off by reading a few of those -
- If you want your children to listen, try talking softly.... to someone else.
- A sweater is a garment worn by a child when the mother is chilly.
- If the kids are still alive when my husband gets home then hey, I've done my job!
- Making the decision to have a child is forever having your heart walk around outside your body.
I talked about how hard it was when Beth was born. The resources were outdated. And there was no texting. If you wanted to call someone you sat down at your kitchen table (because the phone was attached to the wall!) and you talked to them. Or you could get an envelope and a stamp and mail them a letter.
I said things had changed a lot since Beth was born. But one thing that hasn't changed is a question that gets asked of parents of children with special needs. And that question is:
What is the hardest part about raising a child with special needs?
I said the answer could be different for each parent but for me, the hardest part was public reaction. When people stare at Beth when we're walking through the mall. It's human nature to look at someone who is different. If you see someone in a wheel chair I think its natural to glance over at them. But then the majority of us go on about our lives. There are people however that stop walking and truly stare as Beth goes by. I encouraged the moms not to stare, but to make a connection. Introduce themselves, talk about their family member who has special needs. If they see a mom at the park who has a child with special needs, go over to her and say hi. Ask her about her child. Too often parents of children with special needs feel isolated and alone. Make a connection.
I had one mom ask about what to do when their child stares. I told her that she could stop her child right there and talk about the situation. (Don't necessarily stop the person who has special needs, but find a place out of the flow of people and have a discussion.) Why is that boy in a wheelchair? Maybe he got hurt and now his legs don't work. Talk to them at their level so they realize he's just a boy in a wheelchair and there's nothing to be afraid of.
I had a mom who teaches Sunday school ask about what to do when the child definitely has special needs and the other kids in Sunday school are asking about her. The parent isn't there, what to tell the kids? I told her (and I know the Lord was giving me these answers!) she could gather the kids around her and talk about how God has made all of us different. You have brown hair, Jimmy's hair is black. She's tall, he's shorter. Susie likes to sit quietly and read books while Johnny is very active. Don't single out the child with special needs, but talk about how everyone is different.
I could go on and on about the morning, I just want to say how absolutely amazing it was! Oh and after the first session (I spoke the same thing two separate times) a mom came up to me and told me that she has 3 boys. The oldest and youngest both have autism. Neither of them speak. I could tell she was overwhelmed.
After the second session a mom came to me and said she has a son with Down Syndrome and could she talk to me for a minute. She started to break down and said it was nice to talk to someone who had been through it. Afterward she told me he was in the next room, "Do you wanna meet him?" Yes!!!
Too often I feel isolated myself, living in my little world wondering if God can use me at all. Today He showed me that He wants to make a difference in these parents lives and He can do it through me. I came away feeling humbled and blessed beyond measure! I kept thanking Him over and over for what happened today. It truly was amazing.