By author Shari McMinn
One of the strongest pro-life examples I witness in our society these days is when I see a loving, dutiful parent out-and-about in public with a child who is severely physically and/or mentally disabled. I have encountered such amazing families in the grocery store, the doctor’s office, the zoo, and even at the Rocky Mountain Homeschool Conference. Praise the Lord! As I silently pray for them, I observe the selfless love the parent expresses toward their child. The child might be difficult to manage, but seems to understand the grace shown to him or her. In the town where I used to live, I would often see a mom who had an adult son that was a “flapper” and a “shouter.” She would lovingly escort him through the grocery aisles, carefully guiding him as she made her selections. One time, I introduced myself to her and extended a warm greeting. She looked relieved, like someone actually noticed them, appreciated her, and recognized that her son’s life had value. I later learned her husband was abusive and left them, not being able to cope with their situation. Yet, she trusts the Lord has a plan for her and her son.
And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’ (Matthew 25:40).
Many parents in modern times, given the choice during gestation when potential birth defects are detected, choose to terminate a pregnancy. The nation of Iceland prides itself on having the lowest known number of Down syndrome children in the world. They test for birth defects in utero, then abort (murder) any infants who test positive. How sad. How evil! Unbelievers, and some Christians, don’t have the conviction to realize that God has a plan for each person He creates. Even Dr. Seuss wrote in, Horton Hears a Who, that, “a person’s a person no matter how small.” Just because we don’t understand God’s purpose for a “less-than-perfect” tiny or grown human, doesn’t mean we should thwart His plans.
In previous generations, institutionalizing such a child was the recommendation after their birth made the “defects” known. My childhood friend, Lisa, had a “profoundly mentally retarded” younger sister. Her godly parents refused to “put her away” as was suggested to them. Their determination to include Lynn in their private lives at home, and sometimes public lives at church, had a profound effect on me. If I recall correctly, she attended a day treatment facility for her “school.” The Institute of Logopedics, now called Dayspring, was where my own godly mother volunteered in Wichita. This unique campus helped disabled children like Lynn receive a variety of therapies to improve their quality of life. Professionals told Lynn’s parents that she would not live into adulthood. Now in her late 50s, she lives in a group home not far from my friend’s own home. She has a great quality of life and God’s plan for her continues. What a miracle!
Before two of our five adopted children came home to us, our caseworker cautioned my late-husband and me that these siblings might never live independently because their emotional and mental disabilities were so severe. She asked if we would be able to handle that. “Yes, of course” was our naive but heartfelt answer. After placement, these two blossomed into bright and loving children. It was not an easy road, with many tears and struggles each day. But, as we peeled back the layers of their onion-like trauma façades, we found they were intelligent and capable humans, needing our unconditional love. God had a plan for them and us.
I write all of what you have read so far to be able to tell you this: “What you do, matters for eternity!” and “I get it!” You are not just parenting, but you are also homeschooling when others would have shuffled their child off to someone else, somewhere else. But you didn’t. You have undertaken a very important task because you love your child. And, perhaps, no one else would want or be able to do what you do 24/7/365. Your child might have multiple labels: learning-related, physically-related, emotionally- and/or mentally-related. Homeschooling your challenging child is a very tough job — one you are not being materially paid for. Yet, your reward in eternity will be abundant! For now, I am here to encourage you. CHEC is here to help you with guidance for homeschooling your child. And God is here to cover all of it for you and your child because it’s His plan we are living out.
Maybe you are like other parents with extremely disabled children — you see the word “education” and you freeze! You need to understand that simple, basic tasks you do everyday like reading picture books and pointing out the colors by name, are education. My wise and good friend Brenda, a veteran homeschool parent and now grandma, comments that homeschooling parents aren’t just putting their disabled (or any) child into a dark closet and closing the door. They can and should provide a stimulating environment in which their child regularly engages in new and different things with their family members. Parents and siblings can talk to the child while doing chores (language arts), name and point things out during nature walks (science), count as they wash little fingers or go up and down steps (math). Homeschoolers who do these things are educating their child at the level the child can take in and process information. Regardless of their age or “expected grade level,” if your child functions as a two-year-old, then do for them what all parents of two-year-olds should rightly do. That is what your student needs to help them know more today than they knew yesterday.
I want you to consider the following:
- Love your child for who God created them to be; He has a plan and a purpose for their life.
- Accept and give God the glory for all of their limitations, appreciating their strengths.
- Use professionals to evaluate and make recommendations to maximize your child’s abilities.
- Joyfully tolerate the constant interruptions and appointments as you meet his/her needs.
- Pray to love your child unconditionally; ask the Lord for courage, patience, and strength.
- Seek the Lord as to how you should provide a tailor-made, holistic homeschool experience.
- Read Scripture aloud and sing hymns of praise to your child to embed His Word in their heart.
- Give them a good life, just as you do for your other family members; including them as you can.
- Hard as it may be, find time for your own soul to be refreshed for the long journey ahead.
- Trust that the Lord is good and gracious, He is with you, and He has a plan and purpose for you.
Joni Earekson Tada of Joni and Friends will be a keynote speaker, via live stream, at the 2022 Rocky Mountain Homeschool Conference. Her entire ministry exists to help families whose members have disabilities. I hope you will register for and attend the RMHC, particularly on Friday afternoon when Joni will speak and answer audience questions. If you don’t receive the CHEC Homeschool Update magazine, our recent May issue featured an interview with Joni. You can find the electronic version here, on page 8. I suggest you read it to be encouraged. She is paralyzed from the neck down, and has been for more than 50 years. Yet, her life has profound purpose, meaning, and influence for God’s Kingdom. Whether your student grows up to become as well-known as Joni, or not, God has a plan and purpose for your child — and you as his/her parent.
Mobility of Denver is sponsoring the 2022 RMHC Unique Learners track of workshops. During the afternoon of Joni’s livestream, they will have one of their handicap accessible vans on display. I hope you will stop by, introduce yourself, then learn more about their sales and service for families who need accessible vehicles that are new or used or existing vehicles that require adaptations. For now, you may want to read this helpful Guide to Vehicle Modifications.
Finally, here are links to a helpful website I recently discovered and three articles that might be of interest.
Got questions? Need encouragement?
- My #1 recommended resource for raising disabled children is, The NeuroDevelopmental Approach, by Linda Kane. Homeschooling two sons with Down syndrome earned her the equivalent of several college degrees. You can find her helpful resources at A Hope and A Future.
- Need ideas for soul care? Check out this article on incorporating Mom-Care into your homeschooling schedule.
- Find more resources you might need at CHEC’s webpage for unique learners.
- Remember you can email me anytime with your questions or share your burdens at Shari@CHEC.org. I will try to respond within 24 hours.
- You can also contact the CHEC office with your homeschooling questions by email, firstname.lastname@example.org; call or fax: 720-842-4852, M–F 10am–5pm.
Thank you for reading this post and please anticipate future ones on the 3rd or 4th Wednesday, monthly.
PS: If you have a topic you want me to cover, please email me with your suggestion(s).
your trusted homeschooling friend