A while ago, A friend of mine learned that her son was diagnosed with autism and that her life would be changed forever — not incredibly horribly — but a lot more difficult for her son and for her — a lot more time consuming, a lot more intense, and a lot more challenging relationally. I told her I would pray for whatever she needed and she said she didn’t even know what to pray for. Being the parent of a special needs child (learning disability, not autism) and the friend to other parents of kids with special needs, and someone who has worked with special needs children, their parents, and school systems in the past, I know enough about the subject, but I, too, didn’t know where to start with prayer. I thought about it and thought about it, and the prayer below is what I could come up with. If you are the parent of a special needs child, I hope it helps.
God who creates all humanity, we pray for understanding, first and foremost. Remind us that our children didn’t make this happen, and that our own sin doesn’t always account for our children’s issues. If we did have something to do with this child’s circumstances, teach us to forgive ourselves, so that we have the energy to deal with today’s challenges. There will be days when we need all the energy we can muster to cope. Teach us to see the wonder in this child and the reason they are here. Fill our hearts with amazement — and theirs with joy — as they grow.
Fill us with curiosity and courage, so that we can best help our child. If not that, send us somepne who knows what to do and where to look. Once we know, help us to find resources within our means, that our son or daughter may thrive at their own pace.
Teach us not to scream when we don’t understand, Give us compassion for our child’s difficulties and our own in dealing with them. Make our marriages strong and secure enough that they can withstand the challenges we face now and in the future. Help us grieve our ideas of “normal”, even as we face a society that has its heart set on us fitting in.
Then, Lord God, perhaps the most difficult of all, help us to face and change systems which see our child only as a part of their budget or tax rate — one that costs them too much money and energy and time. Give us communities of compassion which actually seek to raise all children to live up to their potential. Teach us to be demanding for all children. Teach agencies and groups not to fear our children, or worry unnecessarily about their safety because they simply don’t understand our child. Teach us, also, to hear the truth when it is necessary, about our child’s condition or ours.
Help us to be as healthy as we can be, so that our child may be as healthy as they can be. Help us to see joy and beauty, even when it is difficult. Teach us to celebrate what we can and, at the end of the day, let us rest in your Spirit, that we might be refreshed when we get up and do it all again tomorrow.
(For those of you who don’t know about the subject, “special needs” is a category of children in the educational system which holds a wide variety of kids. There are those with physical needs, like Muscular Dystrophy, who need help getting around at school, or blind or deaf children who need assistance seeing or hearing so they can learn. There are those with severe emotional disturbances like kids with parents who have abused them and now have PTSD, and there are kids with anger management problems since birth. There are children with the controversial ADHD diagnosis who might need meds given to them at school. And there are children with learning-specific issues like processing disorders or dyslexia. Some are complex and some are simple to deal with. Federal law mandates that all kids get as good an education as they can, with appropriate things in place as possible so that they can. As a rule, kids don’t like to be characterized as “SPED” or “Special” because it means “weird” or “unusual” and, thus the object of bullies or just standard teenage/childhood angst. Separately, there are children who also are special and have trouble fitting in — genius children or prodigies who are so far ahead in their knowledge and interests that they have trouble conversing with their peers or learning from the teacher or old textbooks often found in cities. To my knowledge, a school doesn’t have to provide special services for them but school is difficult nonetheless. All of these services cost school systems money and school systems don’t always have that, so getting help becomes like running a gauntlet.)