Reflections on Special Needs Kids

Spring is a time of transitions . . .

A time for fresh starts, new enthusiasm, a time when all things seem possible . . .

From cold frozen ground and gray skies, suddenly new life springs:  tulips and daffodils and crocuses, trees sprouting tiny leaves of the most beautiful shade of green. . .

Life is filled with of transitions, some of them welcome, long-anticipated, joyful.

Others, well, not so joyful


Since April is Autism Awareness Month, here’s a reflection of a sad surprise that turned out to be a terrific blessing.


Talk about a major transition . . .

My Grandson is Autistic

By Sharon Sheppard

My daughter was sobbing on the phone so hard I could barely make out what she was saying.

“I took Aaron in for his two-year checkup today,” she blurted out between gasps, “and the pediatrician says he needs to be tested for autism.”        My heart plummeted.

Aaron had started talking at eight and a half months.  A genius for sure, we thought.

Then he quit talking at two.  Could be a hearing problem, we rationalized.

Not so.

Twenty years ago autism was a big scary deal.  It still is.

But back then it wasn’t as common as it is now, and there weren’t nearly so many good therapies for treating it.

Talk about a major life transition!  This one brought huge changes for every member in the family.  And even if the child is lucky enough to graduate from high school someday, parental responsibilities still don’t stop there.

Having a child with a disability is like having a grief that keeps on giving.

When friends are bragging about their child being in the “gifted” program at school, your child may be in the lowest reading group and spending hours in therapy.

Each new milestone the child doesn’t reach at the same time as his peers reinforces the grief.  It’s the death of one more dream these parents once had for their child.

While your friend’s teen is shopping for a prom dress and touting her high SAT test scores and college scholarships, your child may be longing for a friend—just one.

Parents of special needs children love their kids just as much as the rest of us love ours.  Maybe more.  They are willing to go without almost anything to be able to afford therapy and expensive medications.  And while their friends go to Disneyland or on cruises, parents of special needs children scrimp along on one income so one spouse can stay home full time with their child. It’s no wonder that disabilities take a serious toll on marriages.

But parents of special needs children are proud of their kids, too. Just not for the same things as parents of typically-developing children.  One day an autistic child may speak a word, and it’s the right one for the occasion.

And the parents will shed tears of joy.

One day not too long after my grandson had been diagnosed with autism, I

was talking on the phone with my daughter, who said, “It hasn’t been all bad, you know.”

“What’s good about it?” I asked.

“I might never have known the meaning of unconditional love if I hadn’t had Aaron,” she replied.

What a blessing!  What a remarkable gift!

I, for one, am proud to be the grandmother of this delightful young man who is now a college student—fun and funny and smart.  (Yes, he did learn to talk all over again, and he hasn’t stopped talking since!) He has been a tremendous source of joy to me.

April is Autism Awareness Month.  If you know of a family that has a child with autism, give them the gift of empathy.  Bring a meal to their home.  If it’s feasible, offer to care for their child to give the parents a night out. Teach your children to befriend children with autism or other special needs.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”  Matt. 5:7 (NIV)

For more information about autism, check out:


















20 yrs ago, it was a very big scary deal

Repetitive actions, obsessions, retreating into his own world

A grief that keeps on giving