Should We Compare Our Children with Disabilities to Other Children With the Same Disabilities?
By Carol Gruber
I was beginning to feel discouraged about the lack of progress, or maybe regress, shown by David, our 7-year old Down syndrome son, in the areas of behavior, speech, school work (he used to trace letters, now he just wants to scribble), potty training, etc. My husband, Phil, was scheduled to be at a conference in Athens, Georgia, the first two days of February. I had planned to go with him so I could spend the day at my parents' (who live1/2 hour south of Athens) to visit and do the housecleaning. Phil wanted to go down the evening before the conference. Wouldn't you know it, that night I woke up with the stomach flu! So instead of going to my parents, I had to spend the day alone in a hotel room, with no reading material but my Bible (my sweet husband came upstairs to check on me in between sessions). As you can imagine, I had a fleeting question, "What am I doing here??? If Phil hadn't insisted that we come a night early, I would have gotten sick
at home and then I wouldn't have come and we wouldn't have wasted that money on an extra night!" The Father quickly and lovingly reminded me that His plans are not our plans!! And actually, I know of no mother who takes for granted a day of rest and quiet! (I also had a chance to read through the book of Deuteronomy-- a great book on child training.)
On the way to Athens, I had told Phil, "I really need to talk to another parent of a Down syndrome child and see if I can get some idea of what David's mental level should be at this point." I don't really have that chance in our small town of Toccoa. And sometimes I feel, be it true or not, that my whole home schooling success is being judged by how David is doing.
We had been looking forward to attending the fabulous banquet on Thursday night. But when Phil started feeling queasy, I told him, even though I was starting to feel hungry, we really didn't need to go. Well, Phil didn't want to miss it, so we went downstairs and found a table in the banquet
hall kind of away from everybody. Another couple made their way to our table and out of the couple hundred people in that banquet room, they were probably the only other couple with a Down syndrome child!!! In fact, they have two-- they have an 8-yr. old DS boy named Isaiah and they adopted a Chinese DS girl, Hope, who is now 7. When Diana started telling me about
her 8-yr. old DS boy, I'm sure she wondered why I was fighting back tears. I was so overwhelmed by God's goodness to orchestrate our meeting. The Lawlers have 7 children altogether and they homeschool their older children (they send the Down syndrome children to a Christian private school). Diana shared with me some advice she had received last year when she was in tears over Isaiah's potty training. She had called the office of NATHHAN (National Challenged Homeschoolers) and spoken to Tom Bushnell, a very godly man and father of nine. He told her, "Don't compare your child to other children, not even to other Down syndrome children. The Bible says that those who compare themselves among themselves are unwise." The short time we spent with the Lawlers that evening was so encouraging-- He hears before we call!
I hope you caught that advice about not comparing our children to other children. Your child may not be handicapped, but it is still good to remember that the Father has created each of our children differently with unique gifts and learning styles or abilities. We need to go to Him for wisdom in the best way to train them for His purposes. There are many other things I want to keep remembering, including--
I want to remember that God's grace is sufficient for even the most difficult situations. When we can admit our weaknesses, then His strength is made even more evident (2 Corinthians 12:9).
I want to spend more time thanking God (1 Thessalonians 5:18) instead of trying to figure out the "why?".
And, even if God hasn't yet shown me all I need to know to teach David (or my other children), I want to continue to be faithful doing the things He has clearly revealed in His Word-- loving David and praying for him, giving consistent discipline, and reading the Word to him (which the Holy Spirit can minister to his weakened mind-- praise God!). The Bible promises there will be fruit "in due season" (Galatians 6:9).