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4 Ways to Encourage a Special Needs Family

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“What can someone do to encourage you?”

This question came as a surprise.

The man who asked stopped by our table at Sweet Tomatoes. He saw my son, Samuel, had a tracheostomy, and with a smile and a kind heart, he approached us.


At first, I didn’t know how to answer. My husband, Ralph, and I looked at each other, pausing for a moment. Ralph spoke up first saying we usually encourage others rather than the other way around. The man nodded and then asked us many other quality questions. However, his first query stuck with me. Given another chance to answer differently, what would I say?

1. Talk about our children.

Like most parents, talking about my son brings me joy. So chat away. Chances are you’ll get a full update on our little man’s shenanigans. I have to remember to catch myself so I don’t talk too much. Am I the only one?

You can ask a special needs parent how their child is doing in school or what fun thing they have learned to do. A topic that’s sure to start a conversation.

2. Offer a simple act of kindness.

A dear lady from our church who loves children occasionally comes by spending a half an hour reading a book to Samuel. What kid doesn’t love attention? While he receives personal one-on-one time, I’m freed up to do a household chore or two. This act of kindness is a blessing.

Maybe your gift isn’t entertaining children, but you can do a household chore. Offer to go to the grocery store or drop by with home-cooked meal. It’s often hard for special needs parents to get out. Something as simple as mowing the lawn can be a big help, too. Try any one of these hands-on practical tips or pick one of your own.

3. Offer words of encouragement.

Affirming words are my love language. I read every Facebook comment, Twitter message and blog comment for encouragement. When Samuel was in the hospital, in the days before Facebook (imagine that), I would read comments on Samuel’s CaringBridge website. During many difficult days, the comments posted helped to lift me up right when I needed it. So, comment away.

You can also send an encouraging card letting them know you are thinking about them. Who doesn’t like to get “fun mail.” (“Fun mail” is personal mail not related to advertisements or bills.)

4. Offer your prayers or good thoughts.

Whether Samuel is feeling great or has a runny nose (allergies), I am thankful for family and friends who are praying for our sweet boy. Just today, a friend texted me asking for an update on how my son’s allergies are doing. These prayer partners are so sweet and patient to put up with so many prayer requests over the years. What a blessing to have this resource at my fingertips.

Ask a special needs parent, “How can I pray for you?” You may be surprised at the answer you receive. Ask if you can share the prayer request on a church prayer chain or on social media. For our family, being healthy is a daily prayer request.

The kind gentleman’s interest in our lives was truly touching. His example inspires me to ask others, “How can I encourage you?” Then I’ll tuck their answers away in my memory database (or iPhone). I may not be able to do them all, but I can pick one and hope to make a difference.

Follow this journey on A Miracle in My Living Room.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability and/or disease, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: December 9, 2015
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