Friday, December 28, 2012

The Beauty of Special Needs Parenting

Being Liam's mom is teaching me so many things...

I am learning to enjoy life more.  The day to day.  The people.  The small things.  I appreciate it all in a new way.

I am learning to view everyone I come across as a person.  Not a disability.  Not a label.  But a person.  Someone's child.  Beautiful in God's eyes.  As important as I am.

I am learning to examine my views of "success."  What does it really mean after all?  An education?  A career?  Relationships are really what life is all about and Liam already has that art mastered.

I am learning to accept myself and others, flaws and all.  Liam is not perfect.  I am not perfect.  And that is O.K.  God says so.

I am learning to let go of some things I thought were important in exchange for things I now think are more important.  Priorities can shift and change through different seasons of life.

I am learning to be more fully myself and less the person I think I should be.  There can be so much pressure to fit a square peg into a round hole.  And all the while, God created me to be uniquely me, not another someone else.

I could go on and on.  But you get the picture.  There is beauty in people with disabilities.  And perhaps this is one of the greatest beauties of all - their ability to open our eyes to things we previously were blind to.  

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thankful Thursday

1. Celebrating Christmas with our extended family
2. Spending the night at my parents' house Christmas Eve
3. Gatlinburg lights at Christmas
4. Watching the boys' excitement on Christmas morning
5. Ordering Jesus' Birthday Presents with the tithe from our year-end bonus

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thankful Thursday

1. Christmas cookies in the mail (thank you, Williams family!)
2. Beginning to trust Scout the puppy (a little bit) not to destroy (as many) things
3. The joy of thinking out and planning gifts for others
4. The satisfaction of a clean house

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Special Needs Adoption: Making an Informed Decision

Loopy after his last surgery

People often say, "I don't know how you do it!  I could never adopt a child with special needs."  And I don't argue.  Because it may be true.  I am not naive enough to think this life is for everyone.  But I also  believe in allowing God room to work in your life.  And in order to allow God room to work, you have to step out in faith sometimes.  That's what this post is about: balancing being realistic and being faithful.

In order to be both a realistic and faithful, you must honestly consider the facts of your current & future life circumstances.  If you already have 7 kids at home with busy schedules, adopting a child who needs to be run around to a lot of therapy and doctor's appointments may not be the smartest move.  On the other hand, if you love the chaos and running around town, you might welcome the extra challenge a child with special needs brings.

If you have 7 kids but live a pretty simple life, adopting a child with special needs might just provide that child with a LOT of extra loving support AND provide your other children with the opportunity to love like Jesus loves.  On the other hand, if you want your life to stay really simple, adopting a child with special needs might complicate things a little too much for your liking.

But maybe, having no children with special needs, you (like me) have no idea what all to consider when making this decision.  Here are some ideas:
  • Will this child likely need a lot of medical care?  If so, you should know that all insurance companies are required to cover the needs of adopted children.  However, it is also worth considering the costs of things that are not usually covered.  For example, some heart surgery can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and is not completely covered by insurance.  For us, we have an awesome insurance company and Liam has medicaid (due to his special needs, unrelated to our income) that covers the rest.  Many children with special needs will be eligible for medicaid.  Asking around your community, you should be able to find some parents of children with special needs who can give you an idea of what services are provided in your area.  Don't worry about offending them - I have found other parents of special needs kids to be eager to help!

  • Will this child likely need a lot of therapy appointments?  Can we realistically fit them into our schedule?  What kind of services does medicaid provide in my state?  Liam currently receives 6-7 therapy sessions each week.  They are all covered by a combination of private insurance, our public school district, and medicaid (even his aqua-therapy and hippo-therapy!).   Four of them are in our home, but we must drive 30-45 minutes to get to aqua-therapy and hippo-therapy.  In addition to preschool, playdates, church, Liam's extra doctor's appointments, etc., this makes for a very busy schedule.
  • What are the requirements of your other children?  Children with special needs do have some extra requirements.  We have to do therapy exercises with Liam daily.  He must be carried and or pushed in the stroller more than a child his age normally would.  He needs extra medications and his hearing aids require upkeep.  When you weigh how things like this might effect the kids you already have, also consider the good that can come out of having a sibling with special needs.  I have another post coming up about that.  However, this is something that is very personal and a decision you have to make yourself and there are 
  • How is your mental health and that of your partner?  This may seem like a silly question, but raising a child with special needs is not for the faint of heart.  If you struggle with anxiety and/or depression or have another diagnosed mental condition, adopting a child with special needs might just send you over the edge.  I am pretty stable emotionally, but I really struggled with depression that first year and eventually ended up in individual therapy and hiring a weekly housekeeper to regain my sanity.

  • Aquatherapy

  • How is your marriage and your support system?  If your marriage is rocky, you should be aware of the statistic that 90% of marriages fail when a couple is raising a child with special needs.  It's a scary number, but you should also know it has only brought my husband and I closer as we have worked together to care for Liam.  We have an amazing church in which we have found wonderful babysitters, as well as other adoptive families and people who just plain love us.  If you are going to adopt a child with special needs, trust me, you will need a strong support system!
  • How is your energy level?  If you're struggling to get everything done already, you probably do not need to add another child to your family, especially one with special needs.  I need a nap several times a week to keep up with it all!
  • Which medical conditions are you most comfortable with?  When you fill out your adoption paperwork, there is typically a checklist you fill out with medical conditions you are willing to consider.  Take the time to do a little research before you fill out the form.  It will come in handy as you look at various waiting children to have an idea of what their medical conditions entail.  Always view the child's medical record before viewing their adorable pictures, when possible!  And ALWAYS have a pediatrician familiar with international adoption review each child's file to give you a better understanding of what the child will require.  You can find one online to send records to.  Personally, we were more comfortable adopting a young child with moderate special needs than we were adopting an older child who had no known medical needs, but would be more likely to have attachment issues.  You may feel the exact opposite way - some are more comfortable with emotional needs, some with minor needs, some with moderate needs, and some with severe needs.

  • These are the issues that come to mind, but feel free to comment if you have specific questions about what to consider with special needs adoption!  

    Now, to the good part.  After giving you a long list of sobering things to consider, what I really want you to know is this: "Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you" (Deuteronomy 31:6).

    It boils down to this.  Consider everything on my list realistically but leave a little extra room for God to work.  We got a little more than we bargained for with Liam when it comes to his special needs, but I would not change it because he has brought us closer to God and to other people who are walking this journey with us.  We are being s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d as individuals by parenting a child with special needs, but it brings us to our knees, and that is a GOOD thing.  So don't let these challenges scare you away!  Remember: "Perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18).

    Tuesday, December 18, 2012

    Free Online Advent Devotional

    Sorry I'm posting this a little late in the season, but I want to share about a wonderful and FREE advent devotional.  Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts (one of my favorite books ever) offers this devotional for free download here: Advent Devotional.  Go check it out and enjoy her beautiful writing - I promise it will draw you nearer to your Blessed Savior this Christmas!

    Saturday, December 15, 2012

    Liam's First Hippo-therapy Session

    Can I just tell you how excited I am that Liam started hippo-therapy?  First of all, Liam LOVES horses!  Every time he gets a pony ride at a festival, he grins from ear to ear.  Second of all, I LOVE horses and rode daily until about 10 years ago.  So it was nice to be back on a farm after all these years.  The staff is awesome and even let Shep ride the pony for a few minutes when Liam was done.  And did I mention this is covered by insurance?  Wow.  Thank you, God.

    Thursday, December 13, 2012

    Thankful Thursday

    1. Liam starting hippo-therapy (and loving it)
    2. Freedom in Christ
    3. Shep still likes to hold my hand
    4. 4 of us curled up in our bed reading books
    5. Making "stone soup" with Shep & Liam - Liam beginning to pretend play

    Tuesday, December 11, 2012

    I Heart 4

    With a certain character from a new favorite book, The Grinch
    Shep & his friend Ethan at Christmasville
    Very excited about his first funny face pancake at IHOP

    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    Whoo Whoo Whoo Turned 4?

    A camping themed party 
    Complete with hot dogs & s'mores around the bonfire, of course
    Don't forget the presents
    Especially his first bike
    Whoo Whoo?
    Shep, that's who!

    Thursday, December 6, 2012

    Thankful Thursday

    1. Shep finally beginning to sing songs with me
    2. Doing the Truth in the Tinsel advent devotions/crafts with the boys for the first time this year
    3. Feeling loved by our church
    4. Being done with my Master's program after 6 long, hard years
    5. Being "just" a Stay-At-Home Mama