Raising a child with special needs takes a few things. It takes patience. It takes time. It takes love. It can take more money than raising a neurotypical child. It takes understanding. It takes not feeling sorry for yourself. Each situation is different depending on the child’s developmental delay but from my perspective, it also gives back so very much.
It not only takes patience, but it’s actually given me patience. It gives me love. It gives me understanding. It gives me lessons on a daily basis. There is no way that I would be the person I am or strive to be if it were not for my son. Not just autism but Elijah, himself, has taught me that the best of me is not even about me because who I strive to become determines who as well as what, I have to give to myself and others beyond my family.
It determines what my legacy will be, what value I bring to others. This is so because it takes a better version of yourself to help a child with special needs reach his/her full potential. Our son Elijah is 10 years old. He was diagnosed with autism at the age of three. Having had two daughters from her previous marriage, my wife was especially aware that there were certain things with development that seemed behind or missing. I did not see or notice anything. Oh yeah, it also helps to have a spouse who is a soldier of love, a warrior for her family and one who makes you better. I am a man blessed to have that, and more in my wife, Laura.
Through her diligence, tenacity, and research, we got Elijah into early intervention before the age of three for 1-2 years. I honestly do not recall for the simple fact that much of that period and a portion of the years that followed were a blur. When Elijah was roughly three years old, we became legal guardians to my sister in law’s four children then aged 4 to 11. That process much like raising any child with special needs took a lot. As a matter of fact, it became obvious that it would take so much that though we were just 4 years into our marriage, my wife gave me an out so to speak, by telling me that she would understand if I wanted to leave our marriage.
I was borderline offended at first because all I could think was that she had misunderstood the seriousness with which I took our vows. But that was making it about me. I did not realize until after the fact that this was the greatest example of not taking me for granted. We knew all along that certain life circumstances and choices would likely cause us to have to eventually step in and raise her sister’s children, but we did not anticipate it happening as suddenly as it did or when it did. I cannot imagine the life that would be had I thought for a second about taking my wife up on her offer to leave. Let me reiterate because it’s easy to misunderstand and think that I’ve said I cannot imagine what life would be like if I left.
The things that life can take from us, has an equal ability to give to us.
I said that I cannot (and refuse to) imagine a life where I even thought about leaving because the thought never once entered my mind, though I love my wife even more for thinking enough of me for offering. But to get back to my original point, the things that life can take from us, has an equal ability to give to us. If we choose to receive it. I’m not perfect, and I can’t say that I always have the right attitude or response to life’s challenges, but I’ve developed the ability to at least catch myself when that happens and make adjustments, especially when it comes to my children. ALL of them, but especially Elijah.
The extra care that he needs causes me to look at myself and find ways to be a better husband, father, and person. Each person’s challenge in life is different, and as you read this, you may face things that are mountains compared to my hills, but I assure you that no matter what we face; how we respond to it is more important than the obstacle itself.