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Can you raise a child with special needs overseas?

Can you raise a child with special needs overseas?

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.

Beth

 

Seeing Special Needs Around Us

Seeing Special Needs Around Us

It wasn’t long after my daughter was born that I began noticing people around with special needs, particularly Down Syndrome. Prior to her birth I don’t think I recognised those with special needs around me. Suddenly I was aware of so many people with Down Syndrome — my sister-in-law’s nephew, a friend we worked with her nephew, a couple at church with a grandson with Down Syndrome, a former pastor at a supporting church with a brother with Down Syndrome. I joined a club that I didn’t even know existed, parent of a child with special needs. Special Needs were all around me and now I saw them.

Do you see those around you with Special Needs? Do you recognise those with Special Needs as you pass them walking down the road or in the supermarket?

How do you respond to those around you with special needs? Do you take the time to engage with them? Are you looking to go in the opposite direction when you see someone with special needs coming?  Do you struggle to know what to do or say? What example are you giving your children about how to love those with special needs?

Special Needs Around Us

All around us there are individuals with special needs. It could be the child in a wheelchair or the adult with autism. How do you relate to those around you with special needs?

Attitude

Your attitude is one of the biggest factors in how you relate to those with special needs. You might not always understand what they are saying but you attitude will set the tone.

Do you view them as a disruption? Your plans have to change because of someone with special needs. You can’t walk as fast because you need to push a wheelchair. Your plans, your agenda might need to change because of someone with special needs. Don’t view them as a disruption, view it as a time to an opportunity for you to serve.

Do you just ignore them? I have watched people just ignore my daughter when she wanted to join in or be a part of what is happening. These are the kinds of people that Jesus interacted. Think about it, when you ignore them you are acting with pride with the attitude that you are better than they are. Don’t ignore them, engage with them.

Do you have a list of excuses as to why you do not get involved? Depending on the special needs the individual might be difficult to understand. Sometimes they are focused on a topic that might not interest you. We have some fun laughs of some of the things that my daughter says. If you put aside your excuses, and get to know her or someone else with special needs, you will meet a person.

Have the attitude of Christ as you relate to those with special needs. As you read through the gospels and see the interactions that Jesus had with the disabled, look at the reactions of the crowds. Numerous times it is records that the crowds were amazed and praised God. So have the attitude of amazement and praise.

Actions

Action follows the attitude. If your attitude is loving and wanting to engage, you actions will follow.

Talk with the individual. My daughter was talking quite a bit the other night with friends about her dreams and plans for the future. Understand and learn about them as a person. Take time to talk with them.

Plan activities that include individuals with special needs. It might mean that you need to adjust how you do things. If you try one time and it doesn’t succeed, try something different, don’t give up.

Your attitude will be reflected in your actions. Have actions that value the individual. Reflect Jesus in your actions. Actions do speak louder than words.

Who are the people around you? How are you interacting and relating to them? Are you reflecting Christ? Take the time to get to know them. Listen, ask questions. See God in a new way and be amazed and praise God.

Read the other  posts on this topic see Biblical Basis for Special Needs,  Be like Jesus, and Special Needs Parents. 

Special Needs Around Us

Special Needs Parents

Special Needs Parents

Who are Special Needs parents?  These are parents that have know medical terms even through they have never gone to medical school. These are parents who know how to use just about anything for therapy. Special Needs parents do things longer than other parents. (We had one child in diapers/nappies until that child was about 6.)

Special Needs Parents

Special Needs Parents

  • Push to get the children to do things, try things, achieve,
  • Don’t want their child discriminated
  • Want opportunities for their child
  • Speak for our children
  • Advocate for their needs
  • Love
  • Keep track of appointments, medication, therapies, and numerous other things
  • Celebrate the little things

Numerous things have been written about special needs parents. I want to begin by looking at some of the parents that we see in Jesus interactions with the disabled or those with special needs. Not all of the interactions with the disabled include the parents.

Learn about special needs parents from Jesus’ interactions

Special Needs parents need to know who God is and what He does. Jairus comes to Jesus asking Jesus to heal his daughter. He knew that it was Jesus who can heal. (Luke 8:41) Jairus knows that it is God that can heal. As special needs parents, we need to go to God.

Know that God works in spite of our unbelief. At times we just give up. Jairus and is his wife stood at their daughter’s bedside weeping and mourning because at this time their daughter was dead. Jesus responds that she is not dead but sleeping. Their response was laughter, laughing at Jesus, what does he know, she is dead. It is too late. Jesus works even though they don’t believe. Jesus simply says, “Child, arise.” It was just two words. God works in spite of our lack of faith. (Luke 8:49-56)

Sometimes special needs parents just need to have faith but also be specific. The official whose son was ill came to Jesus and asked him to come and heal is son. Jesus said to him, ” Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official replies directly and to the point, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus responds, “Go; your son will live.” The man knew and believed. He returned home and his son recovered. It was not just the father that was impacted but the household. Our faith can impact others. (John 4:46-54)

Sometimes as special needs parents we need to allow our children to do the talking. Our children have experiences and understanding. We need to listen to them. That was a bit of what the parents of the blind man did in John 9:1-41. Some of it was out of fear for the Jews. They did say, he is old enough, ask him. The former blind man doesn’t have much patience with them. He tells them he was blind but now he can see. Our children can understand God working in there lives in ways we can’t. Give them an opportunity to share that.

Go to Jesus. Sometimes that is all we have left to do and really that is all we need to do. Go to Jesus, talk with him about the challenges. He is ready to hear us.

Reflections

I found this an interesting study. In the past I have looked at Jesus interactions with people, how people response but to look at the parents was new. I found it helpful in my own life as a special needs parent. As I reflect on these interactions, I am reminded that I need to know God, belief in who God is and does.

Are you a special needs parent? What have you learned about God through parenting?

Special Needs Parents

Be Like Jesus – Interacting with Individual with Special Needs

Be Like Jesus – Interacting with Individual with Special Needs

I am continuing to think about Special Needs. I shared some of the basis for understanding Special Needs here. How did Jesus interact and relate to those with special needs? Jesus gives us a model for how we are to interact.

Learn how to interact with special needs

I decided to begin by looking at Jesus interactions with disabled or special needs in Luke. Knowing that Luke was a doctor made me think that he would have just a bit of that reflected in his writing. I just started at the beginning of Luke reading and focusing on the interactions with the disabled.

Here are some highlights and some of the truths that we can learn from these interactions. I have been challenged as I read these accounts.

Jesus’ Interactions in Luke

Luke 4:31-37 Heals a Man with an Unclean Demon

The demon calls out to Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus rebukes him and tells the demon to come out. The man’s life was changed with this encounter with Jesus. The crowd was amazed. Jesus’ interaction changed lives and amazed people.

Luke 5:12-16 Cleanses a Leper

When the man sees Jesus, he knows that Jesus is the one who can heal. He falls down and begs to be clean. Jesus touched him. The leprosy left. Jesus tells him to go to the priest following the law that Moses had given. Jesus touched the man. Did you see that? According to the law the leper was unclean. It is important to know that Jesus touched the man.

Luke 5:17-26 Jesus heals a Paralytic

This is a great interaction that shows how friends need to be involved. The friends brought the man to Jesus but because of the crowd they could not get to Jesus. That does not stop the friends; they are determined. So they let him down through the roof. The friends had faith. Jesus’ response, “Your sins are forgiven.” While Jesus was meeting physical needs, he was more about the spiritual needs.

Luke 6:6-11 Heals the man with a withered hand

It was the Sabbath but Jesus was willing to “break the rules”. The scribes and Pharisees were watching; they will filled with fury. Some might not understand and even be opposed to what we are doing. But if we have the correct biblical basis for understanding this, we will be willing to work to meet spiritual and physical needs.

There are more interactions in Luke but I want to share two interactions that Jesus had in John.

Jesus’ Interactions in John

John 5:1-17 Healing at the Pool on the Sabbath

Jesus goes to the man lying there and asks him, “Do you want to be healed?” Then Jesus says, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” Jesus had withdrawn himself from the crowd. Jesus goes and finds him. During this second interaction Jesus says, “Sin no more.”

John 9:1-41 Heals a Man Born Blind

The disciples see the blind man and begin to discuss who sinned — the man or his parents. Jesus’ response corrects them by saying, “That the works of God might be displayed.” What works of God do we see displayed in the individuals with special needs?

Some people came to Jesus asking to be healed. Jesus went to some offering healing. Often we see the spiritual connected with the physical. There was no one way of doing ministry, Jesus healed in many different ways. The same is true today, we need to have a variety of ways.

Individuals who are disabled or have special needs remind us that we are all broken people in need of God’s healing.

Lessons Learned

Because of Jesus’ interactions with the disabled there lives are changed. As we share the gospel with those with special needs, their lives can be changed.

Those around saw what Jesus did, they were amazed, glorified God, and were filled with awe. Our interactions should do the same today.

Jesus reached out and touched the leper. We need to reach out and touch people physically. We need to be willing to get a bit unclean for the Gospel.

Special Needs ministry requires working together with others just as the friends of the paralytic. Support those who are working with special needs as they support those with special needs.

People might not understand what and why we are doing this. We need to understand what God is asking us to do and have courage.

Be like Jesus in your interactions with those with special needs. Do you have individuals with specials needs in your life or church?

Special Needs – Biblical Basis

Special Needs – Biblical Basis

Chats over coffee - Special Needs

I have been reading and thinking about Special Needs, parenting and the church. Friday is chats over coffee, which is a time that I write on a more personal note. So I share my thoughts or what is happening. I want it to be a time when you get to know me a bit more.

I joined the special needs parents club 14 years ago. It wasn’t a club that I planned to join but I have to say that the people I have met have been wonderful, caring, encouraging, and supportive.

I have been thinking and beginning to put down on paper thoughts about Special Needs from the Bible. So where do we begin when we think about this topic. We begin in the beginning.

Special Needs in the Beginning

God created man in the image of God, Imago Dei. Understanding that gives value to each life. It doesn’t matter the special needs each life is valuable. (Genesis 1:27)

Life was perfect but not for long. The Fall changed everything and disease and brokenness entered the world. (Genesis 3) We live in a fallen world full of disease, disobedience, and death. Special needs remind us that we are living in a broken world. But it was into the broken world that Jesus came as a man to redeem us. Jesus came for the broken.

That gives a broad picture but what about the individual?

Special Needs in an Individual

The picture in Psalm 139:13-16 is of knitting and putting together each of our parts. So God knows the extra chromosomes or the parts that are not the way they should be. God has created each individual. I love the response. It is one of praise. It calls us to worship. (I am seeing that word quite a bit this year — Worship in the Waiting and I no longer choose Joy.)

The words that the Lord said to Jeremiah remind us that God is the creator of each individual. God knows each of us. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5 (ESV)

Remember when Moses gives his reasons to the Lord saying that he is not eloquent. The Lord’s response reminds us that he is the creator even of these special needs. “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord.” Exodus 4:12. (ESV) I find the next bit comforting “No therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” Exodus 4:13 (ESV). That applies to us today. God will go with us and teach us.

How does all this help me as a Special Needs parents?

I find understanding in remembering that we are each made in God’s image. That makes life valuable.

I am reminded that we live in a broken world. The disease and disability is a reminder of The Fall and the need that we have for a Saviour.

I find comfort in knowing that God is sovereign in this. He created each individual and knows the needs that they might have.

My belief in God’s sovereignty is what carried me through the early days of Special Needs parenting. We were living in Asia on the other side of the world from family. Miss K needed one surgery within days of birth and as she healed from that surgery we learned that she needed another operation and this one open heart surgery. Just before heart surgery we received the chromosome study and learned Miss K had Trisomy 21. Was this a surprise to God? Did he forget where we were living? Did he know that she would need two operations and the expense of those? My greatest comfort during that time was knowing that God is sovereign. He knew all this and he cares for Miss K and us.

Biblical basis for special needs

Disabilities can overwhelm us but even more God should overwhelm us with his compassion and power.

What forms your basis for understanding special needs in the Bible? Next week I will share some of what I have learned reading through the gospels and seeing Jesus interactions reaching the broken.

Fourteen Years of Special Needs Parenting

Fourteen Years of Special Needs Parenting

Yesterday we celebrated Miss K’s 14th birthday. She looks forward to that day each year with excitement. About six months ago she began saying, “it is almost my birthday.” Her birthday means that I now have 14 years of special needs parenting experience. Next year I get my 15 year award. Oh, it is not like that in parenting is it.

Special needs is a general term that expresses itself in so many ways. Some children can look “normal” but have special needs. Other children the special needs are evident looking at them. I don’t know which is easier. In many ways I am thankful that Down Syndrome has features and that helps in understanding Miss K’s abilities and setting expectations. (I could get into the whole expectations vs. ability but will save that for another day.)

My experience is based on raising Miss K and I will just reflect on some things that I have learned about God. Fourteen years ago as I held a tiny baby with small ears and purple fingers (those are the two things I remember about her when she was born), I didn’t realise all that I would learn.

So with 14 years of experience what I have learned? There is so many things that I have learned — medical terms, therapy options, expectations, and many other things. I will focus on the things that I have learned about God through this experience.

14 Years Special Needs Parenting

What have I learned?

God is sovereign. That was and still is a truth that I cling to, this was not a surprise to God. God knew we were living in Asia, God knew she would need two major surgeries within weeks of birth, God knew. Today that truth still holds, God knows.

God is the provider. Twenty six days in NICU, two major surgeries, and numerous tests and procedures at a cost of less than US$300. A physical therapist who donated her time to evaluate and recommend exercises for the first two years. (I so wish I could go back and find all the doctors, nurses, and therapists.) Moving to a new country and just happening to live in the same village as a speech therapist from the US when we were ready for speech therapy. I need to remember today that God is the provider as we wait for a school placement.

God is faithful. Just as each year has a 12 July so God has been faithful through all these years. Day in and day out He has been faithful to us.

God is the healer. I know that God is the healer. She was in God’s hands the night that we were told to go home and prepare ourselves as she would not make it through the night. As we left the NICU that night, I looked at the doctor and said, “she is in God’s hands.” I went home and went to sleep. The next morning we called the hospital. Three days later she had open heart surgery.

God cares. In big and in little ways through these years I have seen that God cares. He cares about Miss K and He cares about her family.

These are just a few of the things that I have learned about God in new ways these past fourteen years.

Happy birthday Miss K. You are a precious gift from God, loved by God and those around here.

2018 World Down Syndrome Day

Chats Over Coffee Special Needs Parenting