One of the most difficult aspects for many families with special needs children is the lack of support and respite care they have for their child. I have had the chance to speak to thousands of parents around the world, and the most common issue is how burned out the parent feels. They are trying to manage everything, and can’t seem to keep it all together. Many of them watch their houses turn into disaster areas, meals go unmade, diets become filled with easy to make processed foods, and their laundry baskets stack high to the ceilings. Parents in this situation often don’t have the time to clean. Their days revolve around helping their child. Their children can’t be left alone for any period of time, and most of their children require close monitoring all day long. Spare time for them is often spent on their to-do lists of what they need to do for their child. There are medications to order, medical supplies to order, appointments to be made, paperwork that needs to be filled out, call that need to be returned, and they need to find 2 minutes for themselves.
Many of us often hear the following from friends and family:
“Let me know how I can help.”
“If I can do anything, just let me know.”
“You are so strong – I don’t know how you do it.”
The fact is most of us don’t really know how we manage it because we aren’t managing very well. We need help but we are too proud to ask for help. However, we desperately need your help so we can take care of things in our house beyond just our child. I have an idea for how people can help families with children with special needs, and I want to share a simple list.
Here is how Family and Friends can help families with special needs
- Make the family a meal
- Start a community meal train for the family
- Do their laundry
- Iron their clothes
- Offer to clean their house
- Bring them a cup of coffee and a snack
- Instead of asking what you can do – just show up and do it
- Grocery shop for the family
- Send the family messages, texts, and emails to let them know you are thinking of them – you have no idea how much this means to them
- Run errands for the family – go to the post office, do a Target/Walmart run, grab essentials for them, or run to the pharmacy
- Help them organize their children’s closets/room – these always are a cluttered with supplies and need organization
- Stop by just to say hi and see them face to face
- Learn how to care for the child so you can offer respite care
- Give them hugs
- Send them cards in the mail with gift cards
- Offer to fix things around the house that need repairing
- Surprise them by taking them out for a night and arranging care with the other parent
- Gifts of self-care can make a mom feel so much happier – give oils, bath bombs, lotions, books, teas, foot scrubbers, make-up, etc.
- If they have a dog, offer to walk their dog
- Come over and play with their child so the parent can shower
This list can always include whatever you feel you can provide – the important thing to remember that friendship with a family with a child with special needs means they do need on-going help. Their situation will continue to be difficult to manage, and it will never get better for them. While most realize this makes being friends with them challenging, they do appreciate the help. I know when I am helped by anyone, it makes my entire day 100% more manageable. It also makes it a lot easier to help my friends in return. The biggest thing to know is that these families are often forgotten about and dismissed by many in society. In order to walk their journey with them, it will not be easy. There will be a lot of messes along the way as you navigate the friendship. The return for anyone helping is the joy and happiness you make in that families life. All it takes is one person to step up and make a difference.
Are you willing to be that person for a family in need?