Special Needs Families Are Not a Monolithic Group

I speak often on the needs of families who are dealing with disabilities. My prayer to that the church will respond to those special needs. But the challenge is that the needs of each family are different. We cannot put such families into a neat and tidy category and then provide the solutions.

I was recently talking with a mother of two special needs children. There was much in her story that I could identify with and there were some common experiences. But at the same time I was struck by how different our experiences were.

Her children were both in wheelchairs and one of their biggest challenges was lack of mobility. Their physical disabilities really shaped the activity of the family.

Our story is much different. Our children with autism are physically mobile. At times that was the problem. Our son is a runner and has escaped both from our house and group homes numerous times. Police and even a canine units have been called to try and track him down. We thought we lost him permanently a couple of times.

Which of us has the easier or harder situation? I don’t think there is an answer to that question.

But it does illustrate how the experience of families with special needs can be so different. That is not to say that we can’t talk about families with special needs. We just need to do so with some acknowledgment that there are differences from family to family.

Not only is an autism family probably different from a spina bifida family, an autism family is probably different from another autism family. It is fine to go into a relationship with a family with some idea of common needs as long as we listen to hear how disabilities are being experienced uniquely in that family.

Continue to reach out to special needs families but remember every family is different.

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