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March 7, 2008

Marriage and the Special Needs Child. . .


I applaud all parents, married, partnered or single, who struggle with raising their special needs children, but I feel that it is important to note how difficult it can be to maintain a marriage while doing so.
In a country where the divorce rate has reportedly risen as high as 50 percent for first time marriages, the rate is reported to be considerably higher (as high as 80 percent) for marriages involving special needs children.


I personally know or know of quite a few couples, whose marriages failed to survive the stress of raising their special needs children. I often wonder how my husband and I do it. Over the years we have come to realize that our children inherited their special needs (ASD, SID, ADHD, Asthma etc...) through our combined family histories, not due to fertility treatments (our son was in vitro), childhood vaccines or environmental exposure, we also know that we have many of the same issues and we try to laugh when things get so bad that most people would cry.


Still, that doesn't explain why we remain so committed to our marriage when others could not. My only conclusion: our faith binds us in ways that we may never understand, but have learned not to question. I am constantly reminded of the poem Footprints in the Sand, whenever I feel like I can't go on. We always make it through each crises, because our faith carries us when our physical strength and willpower fails.


Today I read a bittersweet update about Baby Noor, a child who is very near and dear to my heart and the heart of my good friend Debbie Stone, who illustrates my children's books. Debbie spearheaded the initial campaign to bring Noor to the United States for life saving surgery and I had a once in a life time chance to meet and hold this precious child before she returned home.


The update, which included pictures of Noor, now a beautiful 2.5-year-old, mentioned that her parents are now divorced and her father is remarried. Sadly, I was not surprised.


In some cases, divorce or separation is unquestionably in the best interest of the children involved. In most cases, however, the children are simply caught in the middle and this often continues after their parents separate and/or divorce. Many divorced parents disagree about the need for and/or cost of special services for their children.


In the worst case scenarios the children fail to receive adequate/necessary care from both parents. Many of these children end up in foster care or child protective services.


For this reason, I believe that we must provide more support programs and networks for parents of special needs children. Whether single or married, parents of special needs children need support networks and access to affordable services for their children.


For the past several years, I have been working to develop a Christian-based ministry directed toward helping parents of special needs children get the services and support they need to keep their families together. My special needs children's ministry, including this blog and the SNK Parents google group, is partnered with Lifeover Ministries, which provides financial assistance to qualifying families with special needs children for out-of-pocket medical expenses, home and car repairs and children's recreational activities.


We are currently working on a detailed website, which will provide information for parents to apply for Lifeover grants. Please stayed tuned for future updates on our progress and feel free to contact us through this site, if you have any questions.


Nianya

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