Can you raise a special needs child overseas? What if the child has Down Syndrome? That was the exact question that we had to answer when our daughter was born? This was not the question, can we move overseas but rather can we remain living overseas.
Now 14 years later our daughter has lived overseas longer than she has lived in her passport country. I can’t even say birth country because she was born overseas. When she was born and we learned she had Down Syndrome, we did wonder if that was the end of living overseas. Would we need to move to our home country? Did God forget that we were missionaries and serving him overseas?
I am writing this from the perspective of raising our daughter, Miss K, overseas. She is high functioning and has minimum medical needs at this time. We are limited in where we will live overseas but we are still overseas.
As we faced that question, it was encouraging to talk with other parents raising children with special needs overseas. We visited another family who had a son with Down Syndrome which was encouraging to see how they were raising him.
I realize that there can be children with more special needs that will require them to be in their home country. If that is your case or someone you know, I trust that you can rest knowing that God knows and has a plan for your life and your child in your home country.
Challenges Raising a Child with Special Needs Overseas
Some of the challenges that we faced are similar to those faced by parents of special needs children in their home country. This is something that parents will need to evaluate based on their child and the country where they will be living.
There might be medical and therapy challenges. Thankfully the hospital where Miss K was born was able to do both of the operations that she needed at birth. We did have some communication challenges as the one surgeon did not speak English. God also provided assistance with therapy in those early years.
There can be educational challenges. Homeschooling helped with this challenge. Some of the international schools are not able to handle a child with this level of needs. Now Miss K is attending the local secondary school.
At this time she does not have many social challenges. We do not have to learn a foreign language for where we are living. If that were the case, that could be a challenge for Miss K. She does have a bit of Chinese. If we were still in that environment, I am not sure how much she would learn. Sometimes her speech struggles combined with the American accent make it difficult for people to understand but usually, as people spend time with her they are able to understand her. Our daughter is able to be involved in various activities for children her age.
There can be challenges as the child get older. We are just beginning to ponder what this will look like for Miss K.
Yes, there were and are challenges raising a special needs child overseas. Some of those are the same challenges you might have in your home country. There are unique challenges that expats face.
But the blessings not just to us but to those around us can be so much greater. We have seen God provide in so many ways from medical to therapy to friends. That is a testimony of God’s faithfulness.
Raising special needs children overseas is a testimony to others. I still remember the words of the Christian nurse in the hospital after she was born saying, “so many of them do not make it” referring to the fact that so many children with Down Syndrome are aborted. Raising Miss K overseas has shown people that God values people. We have had numerous conversations with strangers and opportunities to share the value of each person to God. Many years were spent in Asia and her life was a testimony to God there as often those with disabilities are left at home.
It might be challenging at times but in all of that God is faithful.
Are you a parent of a special needs children and considering living overseas? Maybe you have a friend with a child with special needs living overseas. This can help you to pray for them in new ways.