Four Questions for Special Needs Families
WHEN IN DOUBT ABOUT THE LATEST AND GREATEST SOLUTION FOR SPECIAL NEEDS FAMILIES, I OFTEN RECOMMEND ASKING YOURSELF, HOW DOES THIS THING FIT INTO OUR OVERALL STRATEGY? HECK, ASK YOURSELF, WHAT IS OUR STRATEGY? IF THE ANSWER TO THAT QUESTION IS HAZY, ITS TIME TO START PLANNING.
My history is a testament to the notion that life is exceedingly unpredictable. If I could send myself a message in a bottle through time, one of the many things I would tell myself is, Don’t be so arrogant to think that your life, and the life of others around you, is going to turn out exactly like you expect. Then again, I know that I handled much of my life the best I could, and I know you are doing the best you can too.
This unpredictability is something I work with every day when I speak to special needs families. We are all human. When uncertainty hits us in the face, one of the ways we might react to that is by creating a plan, by choosing potential solutions, and by enlisting the help of others. Still, I constantly ask myself, Who am I to think that my life is going to turn out exactly as I plan? Who am I to think that the lives of those that I love are going to turn out exactly as I expect? This is one of my roles when working with special needs families – to be the voice of reason that says, What if things don’t turn out as you expect?
I often tell this story about preparing for those unknown tomorrows for my son, James. I considered at one point leaving my daughter a sum of money to help her in the event that I was not around to take care of him. Then I realized, Who am I to think that her life is going to turn out exactly as she or I plan? What if I left her such money and then she got divorced? Constantly, I ask families to consider the impact of unpredictable (and often unsavory) events that could happen.
When I’m working with families, our conversation typically revolves around these four central topics. For these topics, consider each question for yourself and your family.
What benefits is my family currently taking advantage of?
What benefits, to which we have access, have we decided not to use?
With what knowledgeable person have we, recently, discussed the potential other benefits that we could potentially access?
What are, in our minds, the ultimate risks facing our family?
What are other risks still concerning our family?
For which of these risks do we not have a clear plan in place?
With what knowledgeable person have we, recently, discussed potential plans for meeting the risks facing our family?
Where are these plans written down? Are they easily accessible to others outside our household?
Have others, outside our immediate household, been told our wishes in writing?
Looking at these plans, do you feel that any competent adult could implement them?
What steps need to be taken to make these plans as simple as possible to be implemented?
What needs to be implemented NOW by our family in preparation for these scenarios?
With what knowledgeable persons will we have to meet to make this happen?
Image Copyright 2015 Lightstock, LLC and is licensed by Dignity Group, Inc. and is used with permission. Photo is for illustrative purposes only. Any person depicted in the photo, if any, is a model.