While out driving on a cold night…


Last night, on the way home from my daughter Elizabeth’s basketball practice, we passed a homeless man out in the frigid cold we are currently experiencing. A serious thing in these temps. No, I did not stop and invite him into our warm car with my kids. All I did was send up a prayer for him, and hope someone up there is listening.

My mind went to thoughts on how he got there…maybe he made really bad choices in life and he’s downright mean, or he has a mental illness he has not had treatment for, or he has simply had a string of bad luck.

It really hit home how alone some people are…and how it takes both himself and the compassion of others to change this kind of situation. He can’t have a better life if he doesn’t want one, no matter how many homeless shelters may surround him. But, he also can’t have a better life if he doesn’t know the kindness of someone else helping him get through his struggles.

Being a parent in the special needs community, I see a similar type of situation. Its not life or death, as this poor homeless soul is experiencing. But I do see a lot of parents struggling. They do not want to seek the help and supports they need for a number of reasons. They may not want to acknowledge their child has a disability, or that by seeking supports their child will not be viewed as “normal” or they are very scared and overwhelmed. This is all completely understandable when a parent has been given such life changing news. In most of these cases, there are well meaning teachers and therapists doing their darnedest to find a way to reach out to these parents, but if the parents don’t want the help, they are choosing to stay out in the cold even though they are surrounded by welcoming shelters.

I don’t say that to be harsh on the parents. I get it, I was scared and overwhelmed when I was told my child had Down syndrome, because I didn’t know what that meant for him and his future. When you are told that your child has a disability, there is most definitely a process that has to been gone through once you receive this shocking news. There is grieving for the loss of the child you had certain hopes and dreams for, and each person goes through this in their own way and in their own time. And, eventually, and hopefully for the benefit of the parents and the child, we come to terms with this news, and we dream new dreams for our child and seek and accept the supports that are there for us.

This time of acceptance is exactly when the parents need to know the kindness and support of others. Just like the homeless man needs shelter when he is ready to seek it, the parents need supporters there at the ready to embrace them. Teachers and therapists need to be compassionate and patient with these parents, as these parents have spent hard time out in the cold and are ready to come in for some warmth. This is not the time for a lecture on how they have waited too long and missed valuable therapy time. It is the time for therapists and teachers to embrace and welcome these parents, and get started doing all they can and give as much encouragement as they can to reassure the parents they have made the right decision.

After some time in the shelter has passed, a trust will be formed, and the goal is for the parents to be comfortable with this process of therapy and supports for their child, so they can stand firm on their own two feet. At this point, everyone can work together in creating a progressive environment for this child. There may be some heated battles along the way, but at this point a relationship has been created and certain amount of trust has been formed, so everyone can move forward on more equal ground.

I don’t know the answer to helping all of those struggling out there. Some people simply do not want help and some do not know how to ask for it. Tough love may be exactly what some people need to seek help for themselves. But, in all these cases, we need to let people know we are there for them when they are ready…you just may be the shelter they need when the night gets dangerously cold.

All the best,

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kodiak My Little Grizzly
    Jan 24, 2013 @ 02:16:27

    There are 3 things that happen when a special needs child is born… Grieving, acceptance and embracing… you have to complete each process before you can reach the next… I’m in the 3rd so maybe there is more… but each new set of bad news it’s a process you go through again…
    It’s very sad… But sometimes the help isn’t enough either!!! It is very bitter cold!


    • Christie
      Jan 24, 2013 @ 10:34:03

      Thank you so much for sharing your insight!! It is so true that this process is repeated again and again. Thank goodness the deep love for our kiddos keeps us moving through these difficult cycles.

      I agree, it is so sad when the help and understanding isn’t there. The further I move along with my son, the less I understand how cold people can be when they have so much love to give. Stay warm, and keep up your great work!


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