Embracing Your Child With Special Needs, Just the Way They Are

By Natalie Maxwell
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email
Mother and son playing together at a table
When parenting a child with special needs, it’s easy to fix your eyes on the next surgery, therapy, diet or appointment. But it’s often difficult to simply embrace and enjoy your child in the moment.

From the moment you first find out about your child’s disability, you begin to fight for what you believe is best for them.

You hear the term advocate thrown around, and that title immediately becomes your new identity. You learn quickly what it entails, and the weight of it bears down on you at every moment. You become stronger because of that constant weight, but that doesn’t mean you no longer doubt yourself. In fact, you are constantly wondering if you are doing what’s best for your child – if you’re making the right choices, if you’re doing enough therapy or if you’re actually doing too much therapy and it’s somehow taking away from other needs.

There is No Rulebook

When parenting a child with special needs, you eventually learn that there is no rulebook – that being an advocate looks different for everyone. What I have learned in my own journey is that it’s easy to fix your eyes on the next surgery, therapy, diet or appointment, but it’s often difficult to simply embrace and enjoy your child in the moment.

Our daughter just turned 6. She is the most stubborn ray of sunshine you will ever meet. She loves to sing and dance, play with baby dolls and wrestle with her big brothers. We adopted her three-and-a-half years ago, and she has Down syndrome.

After we brought her home, we began doing all the things we knew would be beneficial for her. We exhausted every therapy option and we worked with her constantly. With every passing month she progressed and learned new things. She began to grow and gain weight and eventually started walking (and running shortly thereafter!).

Speech was the one area where she really seemed to struggle, but I told myself that we just needed to work harder on it. We tried every program that promised results and still made very little progress.

I blamed myself. I constantly had my eyes open for that “next” new thing to try with her. I watched videos of other children with Down syndrome – children much younger than my daughter – singing their ABCs and reading. I would cry because I felt like I’d failed her.

Losing Sight of the Blessing

One day I felt God speaking to my heart and asking me the question: Why does it matter so much to you if she talks? I thought about all of the obvious reasons why communicating verbally would make my daughter’s life easier – and mine, too, for that matter. How I dreamed of hearing her engaging with her siblings or telling me she loves me at the end of the day when I tuck her in.

But doesn’t she do those things already? The thought welled up inside of me and stopped me in my tracks. Instantly I recalled how she runs to me and wraps her arms around my neck, smothering my cheek with kisses. And how I hear her playing and carrying on with her siblings every day.

God was showing me how I’d focused so much time and energy on who I wanted my daughter to be, all in the name of what was best for her; yet I had lost sight of the blessing that she already is, just as she is, nonverbal and all. I was so focused on her talking in the future that I wasn’t listening to what she was already telling me in our everyday life.

As parents, we need to find the balance between pushing our children to be all that God created them to be, while at the same time recognizing that there is absolutely nothing they could ever do (or say) to make us love them more. We must constantly ask ourselves the question: What message am I sending to my child(ren)? Is it one of encouragement rooted in unconditional love? Or is it one that says you are not enough the way you are?

They might receive the latter message every day from the world around them, but we must be sure to send them a far different message at home.

© 2019 by Natalie Maxwell. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

About the Author

Natalie Maxwell

Natalie Maxwell is a writer and an advocate for special needs and adoptive families. She resides in North Dakota with her husband and their five children.

You May Also Like

Thank you [field id="first_name"] for signing up to get the free downloads of the Marrying Well Guides. 

Click the image below to access your guide and learn about the counter-cultural, biblical concepts of intentionality, purity, community and Christian compatibility.

(For best results use IE 8 or higher, Firefox, Chrome or Safari)

To stay up-to-date with the latest from Boundless, sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter.

If you have any comments or questions about the information included in the Guide, please send them to [email protected]

Click here to return to Boundless

Focus on the Family

Thank you for submitting this form. You will hear from us soon. 

The Daily Citizen

The Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family exists to be your most trustworthy news source. Our team of analysts is devoted to giving you timely and relevant analysis of current events and cultural trends – all from a biblical worldview – so that you can be inspired and assured that the information you share with others comes from a reliable source.

Alive to Thrive is a biblical guide to preventing teen suicide. Anyone who interacts with teens can learn how to help prevent suicidal thinking through sound practical and clinical advice, and more importantly, biblical principles that will provide a young person with hope in Christ.

Bring Your Bible to School Day Logo Lockup with the Words Beneath

Every year on Bring Your Bible to School Day, students across the nation celebrate religious freedom and share God’s love with their friends. This event is designed to empower students to express their belief in the truth of God’s Word–and to do so in a respectful way that demonstrates the love of Christ.

Focus on the Family’s® Foster Care and Adoption program focuses on two main areas:

  • Wait No More events, which educate and empower families to help waiting kids in foster care

  • Post-placement resources for foster and adoptive families

Christian Counselors Network

Find Christian Counselors, Marriage & Family Therapists, Psychologists, Social Workers and Psychiatrists near you! Search by location, name or specialty to find professionals in Focus on the Family’s Christian Counselors Network who are eager to assist you.

Boundless is a Focus on the Family community for Christian young adults who want to pursue faith, relationships and adulthood with confidence and joy.

Through reviews, articles and discussions, Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live.

Have you been looking for a way to build your child’s faith in a fun and exciting way?
Adventures in Odyssey® audio dramas will do just that. Through original audio stories brought to life by actors who make you feel like part of the experience; these fictional, character-building dramas use storytelling to teach lasting truths.

Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored all-inclusive intensives offer marriage counseling for couples who are facing an extreme crisis in their marriage, and who may even feel they are headed for divorce.