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Partners in Parenting
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Recently I was at the grocery store when a man and teenage boy walked by me. I assumed that they were father and son. The boy’s arms were drawn up across his chest and his wrists were limp. With his mouth wide open, he stared up at the ceiling as he walked. The man let him walk independently, but kept a close eye on him. I was impressed that this man felt that the boy belonged in the store. In fact, he belonged just as much as the two athletic high school football players who walked by them.

While the boy was looking at a display I asked the man, “Is that your son?”

He turned and looked at me defensively, and yet with sadness in his eyes.

“Yes,” he said. “He is.”

I smiled and said, “I’m glad you brought him to town today.”

Shocked and Appreciative

“Thank you,” he responded, appearing both shocked and appreciative.

I have two friends with special needs children. One has a daughter with Down syndrome, the other has a son with autism. Both have told me that they’ve often felt their child didn’t belong at certain public events: at community holiday celebrations, at the grocery store, and sadly, even at church. Having these moms as friends has sensitized me to the needs of these challenged parents.

What these parents need are partners in their parenting. They need friends. Friends who will invite them and their special needs child to community events, and then sit with them. Friends who will support them when they feel like the rest of society is against them. Friends who won’t be embarrassed when their child says or does something in public that’s inappropriate. Friends who are willing to care for their child so they can take a break. And even friends who are willing to step in and stop the cruelty that some people might try to inflict on them.

If you do partner with these parents, and go to a public place where people stare and maybe even shun you, remember that what they think doesn’t matter. What matters is that the parents of the special needs child won’t feel alone anymore. They now have a true friend—a partner—in you.

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By Nancy Canwell. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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