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The Gift of Our Words

December 2, 2011
By Maria Spencer

Even though it is called the "most wonderful time of the year," the holidays can be a source of stress for families of children with special needs. Depending on the severity or type of disability that affects families everywhere, many factors can contribute to a not-so-jolly holiday.

My prayer is that whether you are a "special" parent or your kids are typically developing, you will be more sensitive to all the kids around you in the midst of the busyness this month.

I learned recently that words I spoke to a family many years ago still affected them today. At the time, I spoke them to a very special mom, I was a more "seasoned" special mom, and I was doing my best to encourage her. I spoke from my heart and in a way that we special parents "get" each other. I left her home that day not knowing that she would remember and appreciate my words years later.

We never know when our words are going to have an impact on other parents - our experiences, our honesty, and our outlook can mean so very much to any Mom or Dad, regardless of what their family's challenges are. We have to make sure we recognize the opportunity to encourage a parent when it presents itself.

We've all been in the grocery store at some point when we have heard a child having a meltdown for whatever reason, and the loud echo is disturbing everyone's shopping experience! Since this is the season of baking, the stores are crammed with people busy with preparation. I want to encourage you that even in the middle of what may be a crazy day for you, take a moment to say something positive to the mom of the child that is screaming. You never know what kind of day she's had, or the challenges her child may face on a daily basis, both of which can make for a very weary Mom, especially at this time of year.

Many people have asked me what to say, because in situations like these, it is difficult to find the right words. The answer is always to say something encouraging that you would say to any child. If the child's disability is apparent, tell the mom what beautiful eyes he has, or a great smile. If he or she is in the midst of crying and the mom is stressed out, say something-anything to let her know it is OK. Try to make light of the situation. The positive words you say to her regarding her child may be the only positive words she's heard that dayor that week.

The increase to our senses this time of year may also pose a challenge to some kids with different abilities. Let's all do our part this year to look for opportunities to let other parents know that we understand the apprehension that they feel because of their child's limitations or sensitivities.

Our world has put such an emphasis on buying this time of year. Let's choose to focus on the giving instead -- not with our checkbooks or credit cards, but with our words. The most wonderful gift we can give this year is a word of support and inspiration to another parent. Our words can represent what the spirit of Christmas truly is - hope and life.

Let's breed hope from the heart this season, and remind families that they are not alone on this journey.



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