4 Lessons from a Special Needs Family

Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. (Hab. 3:17–18)

Special needs parenting is like stepping into a whole new world. I've been a special needs mother for twenty years since the autism diagnosis of our youngest son, Taylor.

Walking by faith through this experience has taught me so much. All I can tell you is, I wouldn't trade this journey for anything . . . albeit strenuous and heartbreaking at times.

I bet you already know someone like me. We are a different breed, but we're not hard to find.

Have you wondered why God places special needs families in your midst? It's not so you can pity them. It's so you can learn from them! There are lessons in the special needs journey that God desires to teach all of us. They may look different in our lives, but they apply spiritually to you, too.


While I still struggle with prideful, selfish thoughts, special needs parenting has taught me the real value of sacrifice. The giving up of "me, myself, and I" has been one of the blessed by-products of taking care of our son. What I have wrestled against has opened me up for spiritual growth.

Plan for Life . . . But Not Too Much

Planning for the future is common for parents. We set up college funds. We buy insurance. We make goals. Yet, the uncertainty of a disability takes that planning and puts a different spin on it. Health can change unexpectedly. The availability of special services funding can suddenly disappear. Much is out of our control, but we adapt to it while relying on Christ all the more.

Don't Hold on Too Tightly

After watching my child struggle to communicate and battle sensory disturbances, I've rejoiced for something I didn't think too much about before— the beauty of eternity. The fallen world we live in isn't our permanent home. We're not supposed to hold too tightly to it. Kingdom thoughts, for me, are mixed with joyful praise that one day my son won't even remember autism.

Praise God Unconditionally

There's a remark I've heard parents say (which I'm certain I've said in my earlier years), and this has to do with being thankful for our kids. Often the remark goes like this, "I thank God for my three healthy kids." While it's not necessarily wrong to be grateful for good health, attaching it to the blessing of human life can be a bit tricky. What will we say if one of our kids is afflicted later in life? Be thankful for two healthy kids?

The world promotes that the absence of problems is something to be sought after as the ultimate. But hardship refines our faith. God tells us that His grace is lavished upon our weaknesses, and He is sovereign over all. Autism taught me to just be thankful for my kids. Period.

Has a special needs family blessed you?

Praise God for what He is doing in their lives. Pray for them. Drop a note of encouragement, and tell them what you're learning from their journey.

About the Author

Sheila Gosney

Sheila Gosney

Sheila Gosney lives in Missouri and is blessed with a husband, three sons, one daughter-in-law, two grandsons, and an incredible circle of family and friends. Sheila serves in her local church several ways; she enjoys teaching kids, mentoring younger women, … read more …

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