Ellen Stumbo offers ideas for supporting families who have a special needs child undergoing surgery. These tips can apply to any family going through similar situations. Help equip the families you shepherd to be the hands and feet of Christ during these times.
It’s hard when your child has surgery, but when your child has special needs, it can be even more challenging. For many kids, their disabilities increase these challenges exponentially.
What if your child is non-verbal and cannot tell you how they are managing the pain?
What if your child has an intellectual disability and they do not understand what is happening?
What if your child has sensory processing issues and the hospital environment becomes overwhelming?
Special needs parents already have a lot on their plates, so here are 5 practical tips to help special needs families get through a surgery:
1. Offer to watch the other children on the day of surgery, or the first few days following surgery
If trusted friends help with the other children, parents can focus solely on their sick child. You might even go an extra step and offer to drive the kids to dance class or soccer.
2. Skip the hospital visit
Unless the child with special needs is very familiar with you and you plan to come to the hospital to give the parents a break, it might be best not to visit. Always ask, “Would it be helpful if we came to visit, or is it better to wait?” Some families have a hard time saying no, but it is overwhelming to entertain the visitors while trying to keep their child comfortable.
3. Text or email
Not going to the hospital does not mean that you cannot support the family. Text, email, message. You can do this throughout the day of surgery and the days following letting the family know you are thinking about them and praying for them. This is an incredible encouragement.
4. Bring meals or gift cards
This helps the family give their full attention and energy to help their child recover without worrying about the little things, like feeding the rest of the family. Maybe your church can organize meals for a week or two.
5. Offer a special home visit
When one of my daughters was in the hospital, a group of women from my church came to our house to clean and do laundry. Not everyone is willing to take this help, but you can offer. Or maybe a group of friends can pitch in and hire a cleaning lady for a day.
Ellen Stumbo is the wife of a pastor and a mother to three little girls, two of which have special needs. In Ellen’s words, she’s passionate about helping the church embrace people with disabilities – not out of pity or out of service, but out of a genuine understanding, acceptance, and celebration of their life. Find more on parenting, special needs, adoption, and faith at her blog – ellenstumbo.com