Saturday, October 1, 2016

Life in a Special Needs Family ...

I sat down to write about our week and thought that nothing remarkable had happened to report. At least, nothing that would seem remarkable to a normal family. But to me, it was a very remarkable week. We did our schoolwork. We went to dance class. We cleaned the yard up some more. We transplanted the Iris bed and made it larger. We moved a million pounds of rocks we found on the property to make nicer borders on our front yard flower bed. We continued our commitment to emotionally supporting another family who started homeschooling in the middle school years, and we are providing transportation two days a week to another child whose mother has been hospitalized for weeks. We sent our adult son to away camp for brain-injured adults. This is his first time away from home without a parent accompanying him. That is our week in a nutshell. Not very exciting on the surface. However, very exciting in the details.

Every family is unique and has its own challenges. The main challenge for our family is that each member of our family has a disability. Some of us have more minor issues than others, but we all struggle with something that impacts every single day of our lives. For me, that is learning disabilities that I was diagnosed with at a very young age. Thankfully, with lots of parental support, a few years at private school that specialized in learning challenges and a natural desire to stay organized, I learned to cope with my learning challenges at a young age. However, spell check on the computer works over time for me, and my mother cleans up my grammar on every post. I love to write and it is a labor of love to do it. My husband also struggles with learning challenges and relies heavily on me to keep us organized. However, he has great work ethic and a patient temperament. We both love to learn and read, which is a huge asset. All this to say, my husband and I had our hands already full before becoming parents.

Then you add our adult son with brain injury due to several heart attacks in infancy and Dandy Walker Syndrome which affects his brain, two adopted children with Fetal Alcohol Effects (one of which has severe mental health issues), and a daughter with mild dyslexia and anxieties (which she comes by naturally) and you have a rather interesting set of challenges. You throw in PTSD for a few members, cerebral palsy for one, heart condition for one and a host of minor irritants -- and it gets downright crazy some days.

Even though our daughter (Goldilocks) with Fetal Alcohol Effects and severe mental health issues doesn't live with us at this time, she is still very much a part of our family and impacts us daily. We talk to her several times a week, take  her to one of her weekly therapies, talk to at least one of her mental health team members weekly and attend multiple appointments/meetings. Then there is the unfortunate fact of trying to heal from the damage that occurred from living for 11 years with such a mentally unstable and at times dangerous person. The healing is slow but we see improvements all of the time.

The healing process is really the remarkable thing about this week. Our adult son went off to away camp. He is 26 years old and this is his first time away at camp. It is a huge milestone. This huge accomplishment means that the healing our family is working toward is really beginning to impact our adult son. He has had the opportunity to go to this camp before but refused every time. This time he asked to go, was willing to go without parents, did not change his mind and got on the bus that took him off to camp. It is a MIRACLE! He is texting me every 20 minutes or so and has tons of support to help him at camp, but it is a miracle nonetheless. I am immensely happy for him.

It is also remarkable that we are now able to be of more support to others. It may seem like nothing to support another family through their early days of homeschooling and provide a few dozen rides to a kid in need, but for us it is a big deal. We are a family that has spent years being completely consumed by getting through our own troubled days. To keep our own little family stable took everything my husband and I had. Our lives were so messy that we could not possibly extend ourselves into helping reduce the stress in other people's messy lives. But now we can and it feels great. We are abundantly blessed!

Blessings, Dawn



  1. What a wonderful week, and the blessings really do show through in the details. You all do such a spectacular job of helping each family member with their unique needs. It is amazing that you are now able to give of yourselves to others as well. I hope you have many more such weeks!

  2. Sounds like a good week. As the mother of special needs kids, I know how important those weeks are. Dropped by from the weekly wrap-up.

  3. I'd say that was a really good week. I do hope your son enjoys his first away camp! Thanks for sharing openly about your family and the struggles and triumphs!

  4. Wow! I am totally impressed. I think you ability to reach out to others in need is HUGE! I am not at that stage yet (still trying to survive our own special needs at home), but you've given me hope that someday things will change, and you've also been real enough to help me see that it's okay if it's a long time off. This post was a real treat to read.

  5. Wow! Sounds like an amazing week. Isn't it so neat how you feel so blessed by helping and blessing others? I love that! I hope your son enjoys this time even if he feels a bit stressed now and then. My son is away for the first time from us... its been so weird for me. God bless you, Teresa

  6. I am in awe of how the good Lord has it all planned out for us. I know that your family is exactly where they need to be and you are an awesome mom and hold it together like glue! Amazing week and that camp sounds exactly what he needed!

  7. ((hugs)) This post shows your strength and endurance. How exciting that your son was able to go away to camp. May you continue to harvest the fruits of all your hard work.

  8. Wow! What a wonderful story of strength, endurance, and perseverance. How wonderful that you are now able to offer support to other families.