Friday, September 12, 2014

5 Ordinary Things That Are Not-So-Ordinary For Families With Special Needs

Photo image courtesy of Ambro via
 Why is everyone hungry for more?
“More, more,” they say.
“More, more.”
I have God’s more-than-enough,
More joy in one ordinary day
Than they get in all their shopping sprees.
At day’s end I’m ready for sound sleep,
For you, God, have put my life back together.
~ Psalm 4:6-8, MSG ~
Once your life goes down the divergent path of special needs, it can be challenging to keep bitterness and disdain at bay.  While others with typical families whine or complain about little irritants, the ordinary becomes such a gift to us.  With the perspective that raising a child with special needs gives us, things that used to ruffle our feathers in the past fade to the level of a mere nuisance in the present.  And the little mercies of every day become great blessings.

In fact, some of the ordinary things that parents raising a child with special needs or chronic illness may find delightfully extraordinary (at least at times) include:
  1. Personal pampering -- While friends cannot fathom not being able to get to the salon for their cut and color or this week's manicure, we parents often subjugate our own comfort to manage that of our children.  My beautician is a saint for all of the times over the years that I have had to reschedule or cancel appointments out of necessity.  Those luxuries of flawless nails, massaged muscles, and perfectly coiffed hair are enjoyed far less frequently than they once were, but far more treasured. 
  2. A neighborhood babysitter -- It is hard enough trying to find a good sitter when you have typical children.  Add special needs or disabilities to the mix, and your options become significantly diminished.  In our family's history, we had a number of would-be sitters who could never get past their fear of our son's bleeding disorder.  Then there were the sitters who, after getting over the hemophilia hurdle, would never return because our daughter, who had yet to be diagnosed with Asperger's, was such a handful.  Now imagine families we serve who have children that are tube fed or need diapering beyond their toddler years.
  3. Dinner out -- Of course, if you can't find a babysitter, it becomes difficult to get out to dinner together as a couple.  Think taking the family out for dinner might be a good second option?  Well, if your child with sensory processing issues can't handle the noise, the smells, the crowds in a restaurant, dinner out might actually be more like torture.  If your child is wheelchair bound, lugging everything and everyone out of the house after a long day might seem like too much work.  Something so ordinary to others can become a real luxury for families like us.
  4. Church -- I could write on this topic alone.  Churches can be filled with loud sounds, strange smells, and unusual lighting.  A well-attended church definitely has crowds.  All of these things can be triggers that put our kids over the edge.  Add to that the fact that some stringent expectations are often heaped on the faithful.  Silent, compliant behavior is typically implied.  More than anywhere else in society, a poorly behaved child is assumed by fellow church-goers to be a poorly parented child.  Sunday school is rarely, if ever, equipped to handle a medically fragile child.  With difficulties like these, is it any wonder that the participation rate in worship is exponentially lower for families like ours?
  5. Disposable income -- Medical bills add up, plain and simple.  Even if a child has a diagnosis that is covered in part by Medicaid, the ancillary expenses mount.  All of the money spent on gas to and from clinics, therapists, and hospitals eat away at the family finances.  And if a family wants to explore alternative therapies for a child, those costs are not likely to be covered by any sort of insurance.  While there are families who enjoy affluence in spite of special needs, the vast majority feel the incredible pressures of extra financial demands from special needs.  That nicer car or splurge vacation that many other families enjoy tends to more frequently elude families like ours. 
The good news in all of this is that our families become more inclined to develop a humble gratitude for life's common blessings that others tend to take for granted.  We find that the greatest riches in this world are really small moments, small mercies, and treasured time with those we love.  We are more frequently availed the opportunity to spot God in everyday gifts.  And we live in the grace of having the ordinary transformed into the extraordinary.

PRAY:  Father, thank You for making the ordinary extraordinary when we allow You to refocus our priorities.

~ Barb Dittrich


  1. Barb, such a beautiful and well-articulated post. Having lived this life, I certainly know...

    The greatest gift of living this life: "we live in the grace of having the ordinary transformed into the extraordinary."

    Love to you & yours!

  2. So true, so true!

  3. It was much needed.. Thanks

  4. Well said! Praise the Lord for His wonderful grace that we have the opportunity to see so often on a day to day basis. Learning to enjoy the simple pleasures of each day is a gift. Your article was a good reminder of this--thanks!

  5. Good list! But there's more that could be on that list, for sure. What about balancing siblings? Making and maintaining friendships (our own AND theirs)? Feeding the marriage? Saving for retirement? Planning for retiring for three? Yes, there could many other things on that list. But, thank God for His provision and showing us how to be grateful indeed!