Today’s post is a guest post by Connie Baum. She is the author of : http://thehealthyandwealthyyou.com/blog/. Connie knows of what she speaks regarding caring for loved ones with special needs. Please read…this comes from her heart.
Toastmasters International stresses to their membership the importance of preparing each speech. It is important to think each project through, outline it carefully, craft it, and rehearse the presentation to perfection.
Preparing for our beloved special needs family members is even more critical; the quality of their very lives depends upon how carefully their family members have collectively thought out plans, outlined the needs, and decided together what would be the ideal scenario for the life of that special person in the family.
Everyone in town knew Marvin. He was a cheery, personable fellow with special needs and he lived with his parents until his elderly father passed away. For a decade or so Marvin told everyone he was the man of the house now and was taking care of Mother. When Mother died unexpectedly, Marvin was left alone, morose, and with no plan in place.
It was patently obvious Marvin had been well cared for and dearly loved. Close family members were seriously interested to help Marvin get on with his life after mourning his loss; but, they were unable to care for Marvin in their homes on a long term basis. When his mother was gone, he was lost and alone. After much confusion and a flurry of activity by family members and social service workers who intervened on Marvin’s behalf, Marvin was able to find a place to live with an agency well suited to meet his physical and social needs. They even found work for him in their sheltered workshop! Best of all, he could take a bus to his home church every Sunday morning! His value and worth was recognized and all his needs were being met.
Things for Marvin worked out swimmingly. Families who plan together for every eventuality, including burial and internment, can rest assured the needs of their special family member, whose needs are unique, will be properly met. It does take some open and frank discussion, contact with trusted attorneys and/or social workers to create a workable plan for the future for the “Marvins” of the world.
Implementing these plans can often be painful for family and clients alike. It can be reminiscent of the loss of death. It is the demise of the familiar, the comfortable. Conversely, it is entrance into a bright new world with exciting new opportunities, fresh new relationships and networks, as well as discovery of untapped skills and talents! There are transitions that are smooth sailing; other times the move into the new world is fraught with difficulty and adjustment comes more slowly.
Toastmasters members plan for successful speeches; loving families plan for successful lives-particularly where the lives of precious special needs people are their prime consideration.
Every family is made up of individuals with wants and needs. Every family is different. Add a person…take away a person; and, it changes the family dynamics. Add a need, or take away a need; and again…the whole composition of the family changes. This is to be expected in the life of every family.
Families that are created out of adoption have a multitude of blessings and challenges. The same can be said of families that have special needs children…whether they are born into the family or adopted. The term family falls under an umbrella of accomodations; each person’s wants and needs are accomodated into the family unit (or should be). Your place in the family is guaranteed out of love, acceptance, encouragement and the occasional nudging towards further personal growth. A healthy family is designed to be a personal support system.
My own family has both adopted children and special needs children. We have blessings and challenges like any other family. Those blessings and challenges aren’t JUST related to being a family created from adoption, or of special needs; it is sometimes a mixture of both.
I grew up in a large family and my husband did as well. We are used to understanding that each person is unique. Each person is an individual, as well as, part of a family unit. Often in my sibling group we had wants and needs that conflicted with one another…my husband’s family as well. We had to work out any differences between family member’s expectations. My husband’s family was impacted by some special needs, my family was not. Neither of our families were impacted by adoption. And yet, because we came from large families…some would consider our families to be special needs just because of the number of children. Each person in a family impacts another; that is typical of any family that consists of more than one person. There is no such thing as a “normal” family!
We are blessed with creative thinkers, business minded or logical thinkers, nurturers, artistic individuals, readers, non-readers, free thinkers, outgoing personalities, highly verbal personalities (how come i didn’t get any quiet personality childen?) LOL, musical, non-musical, conformists and non-conformists, high IQ-low IQ, flexible and non-flexible personalities; you get the idea. We are a creative mix of likes and dislikes. It is a balancing act at times trying to meet everyone’s needs. But, it is done because we want to; we desire to recognize each person’s requirements to be successful, to be healthy and happy.
Each family has a story; it has a beginning, a middle and an end. Everyday we are writing new pages to add to the story. Those stories are of interest to others because we can learn from one another. We can share in the laughter, the confusion, the joy, the sorrow, the sense of betrayal or anger that fills a family with a lifetime of experiences. The stories of your family can mingle with other family stories to create a sense of encouragement,failure, discouragement, success, education, or compassion. Experiences can draw people together or set them apart.
Isolation is sometimes a part of family life when you are raising adopted children or special needs children; just because of the lack of understanding; or, perceived lack of understanding, of those in your social circles or community. It is very important to find support in those times of feeling isolated by behavior difficulties or by circumstances.
We must learn to live in the moment…not be defined by labels or expectations. Each day, each moment is open to interpetation. We can stop, we can reread, we can change directions and we can grow and learn. Sometimes people get a label and try to skip all of the chapters in between the beginning and the end…they just want to go to the end of the book and see how the story turns out. It is in the daily living…getting the most out of each and every moment that we are given to live, that we find fulfillment and joy.
So, what’s your family’s story? How was your family created? Is your family life the way you expected it to be? If yes, why? If not why? What would you change if you could? Can you change it? Can you change how you think about it? What impact does your family have on each other; what impact does your family have on others around you? What does family mean to you? What do you love about your family?