~~"I'm a pair of Left-Handed Scissors in a Right-Handed World" --Dana Cockrum~~
It was completely unexpected when a young woman, age 28-30, in my old ward, gave birth to a baby girl with Down's Syndrome. They did not know in advance. I got a phone call from someone asking if I would contact the mother, as the family was struggling with the news, but accepting, and needed some support. Well, I don't have children with Down's Syndrome, but I know the essence--parenting the Disabled, special needs, the quirky. I put together a packet of materials containing what has always brought peace to my soul, and gave it to her. She was able to look at her future a lot differently.
"And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions. And now it came to pass, that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea,the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord." (Mosiah 24:14-15)
Welcome to Holland This is a beautiful essay I found, written to help explain what it's like parenting a special needs child.
Holland Schmolland -- a hilarious take on Welcome to Holland by a mother of an Autistic child
*disclaimer--I do not seek a cure.
What this parent of special needs children knows as a Latter-Day Saint:
- The Lord qualifies those whom He calls.
- He never gives you more than you can handle with His help. I always feel as though I get a little extra help in my life.
- It is a great honor to parent children such as these, because the Lord trusts in me.
- We gain great patience and a sense of humor if we allow it.
- Always follow the promptings of the Spirit.
- Counsel with the Lord in all thy doing and He shall direct thy paths for good.
- The Lord cares for His little ones--miracles abound.
The unenlightened who fear, have hated my children for their disabilities, and people who love, have loved them. I let them "speak" for themselves now. Buddy, who was once non-verbal, is now a scriptorian, wow-ing the congregation with recitals of the Christmas Story from Luke..."And there were in the same country, shepherds...." on Fast Sunday in December. Another day he stood up on Fast Sunday and recited Joseph Smith's First Vision (scripture mastery) word for word. He is a delight in Gospel Doctrine Class.
How did this happen? We worked with his disability instead of against it. The Lord did the rest.
- We have to enter their world first, before they will enter ours. We got down on the floor and together built walking fishing poles, hung fire engines over the railing with a pair of Suspenders, encouraging the creativity within him as a major part of our school day. All day recess!!!
- Visuals, Visuals, Visuals worked for him in our school day.
- Listen for the Promptings. I was prompted to give Buddy a Gospel-based education. I know many people don't like the "Living Scriptures" videos because of artistic liberties, but I was prompted by the Spirit to use them. He answered questions about the movie, or we played match game with cards about the movie. We used Scripture Stories to teach him to read. When he was older, Seminary made all the difference in the world for him, emerging slowly and loving to read the scriptures on his own..
- We didn't force our will. If he wasn't ready for something, we didn't force it. I learned that what I want and how I feel were neither here nor there. We were all happier for it.
- I talked to him, asked him short, simple questions using as few words as necessary. He couldn't sift through long sentances to find the meaning. Less frustration for me, too, once I understood that.
- Teach using what they love and will respond to. He LOVED Thomas the Tank Engine trains, so I made math fact pages, building familiar trains, piece by piece, in our graphics program (yes, quite the labor of love, believe me). If your child loves toothbrushes, use them for math, for telling stories. If he loves dinosaurs, use them.
- Whole pages of worksheets can be overwhelming. We covered most of his worksheets with other papers, so he saw only a problem or two at a time. This reduces the frustration level for all parties involved.
- Know that they will blossom, and emerge, at their own pace, if at all, in the Lord's time.
~~Teresa is a widow, with 4 children at home, 2 of whom are on the Autism Spectrum. She expects them to be home with her for, at least, the next 50 years, and is preparing for all eternity. You can find them at Wockenflock Daze.