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How to Support Your Friend Whose Child Has Special Needs

how-to-help-your-friend

I used to think moms of children with special needs had super powers.

They seemed so strong and capable to me, as if God had given them these special children because they were obviously best suited to handle it.

Now that I am one of these moms, I realize just how wrong that assumption can be.

There is nothing uniquely remarkable about us, other than we’ve been dealt a certain hand of cards and decided to stay and play. We love our children deeply, and we’ll do whatever it takes. But that love and determination doesn’t replace the lost sleep or the lost income. The worry lines. The guilt. The grief.

If you have a friend walking this path, then you also have a unique role to play. Your friend may not say it out loud, but she needs you more than ever.

Don’t Stop the Invitations  

When a child has special needs, your easy-going friend quickly turns into a high maintenance one. The odds of her going with you to a spontaneous event may be slim. Even so, don’t stop asking her to go. Let her make the decision to rearrange the universe if she can.

And if you want best-friend bonus points, think for a minute about her child and his or her needs – is there something you could do to help? Could they come early before the crowd, or could you research a venue’s accessibility factors? If you are hosting, can you adjust your menu or activities to accommodate her child? It may take an extra step or two, but it would make all the difference to your friend.

special needs respiratorySimple Things Matter

As much as special-needs moms pretend to have it all together, some days are still harder than others. A simple text message is always helpful. So is a meal, hot coffee, or a bottle of wine. It shows your friend you love her and are thinking about her and helps her feel like she’s not alone.

Another great way to help is to tell your friend what you can do. Can you go to the store? Pick up her other child from school? Plant flowers in her yard? Run a load of laundry? Offer your friend a list of ways you’d like to help and let her choose what’s needed. Consistent help is a wonderful gift, especially when the diagnosis is no longer new but the struggles are just as real.

Questions Are Okay 

All moms love to talk about their kids. Please don’t be afraid to ask questions. Not only will it help you better understand your friend’s daily reality, but it will also go a long way in helping your friend feel connected.

Also, don’t be afraid to talk about your own children and their milestones. Our children may not reach the same ones, but we want to help you celebrate. And we hope you’ll help us celebrate our successes, too!

Remind Her Who She Is

Therapies, nightly Internet research, doctors appointments, and the challenges of daily care can be exhausting and isolating for a mom whose child has special needs.

You can help your friend remember their strengths and joys, whether it’s by sharing a good book or sending them a link to a new song; writing a note of encouragement or helping them get away for a spa date or to shop. Dream with her about the future, and remind her of the past. Life is full of seasons, and your friendship can provide some much-needed perspective and hope for what’s ahead.

Don’t Give Up 

There is a lot competing for your friend’s time, and she may often be distracted or consumed with her child’s current battles. Moms of children with special needs live in a cycle of grief and hope and can be on the upswing for either at any time. Just remember that she still needs you, and she loves you. She wants to be a better friend. Please don’t give up on her. She’s worth it.

The Fort Worth Moms Blog hosts 19 Neighbor Groups via Facebook, including the Moms of Special Needs Tarrant County. These groups are free to join and offer online and offline opportunities to build relationships and gain resources from other moms in the area.

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4 Responses to How to Support Your Friend Whose Child Has Special Needs

  1. Santa Paul October 16, 2016 at 9:51 am #

    Thanks for sharing your hard earned insights….they won’t be wasted! My Santa shop is uniquely set for special needs kids….it’s private one on one time for the family with Santa. I can apply many of your lessons there. I thoroughly enjoy your photos on FB as you continue your Story of Laughing, Living, and Loving…Love, Santa Paul

  2. Anna
    Anna October 16, 2016 at 11:22 am #

    Beautifully written, Jenny, and so spot on!

  3. Cynthia Rodriguez October 17, 2016 at 1:49 pm #

    Im trying to help a friend that is raising her two grand kids that are special needs and she really needs help she is alone now with no help …Any advice or help for her..

    • Jenny P.
      Jenny P. January 26, 2017 at 10:33 pm #

      Cynthia, one of the best resources for me has been other moms walking the same path. There is a Fort Worth Moms Blog Facebook group for moms of children with special needs that might be a good starting point for your friend!

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