Every family will go through these every family.
WHEN I BECAME PART OF MY SPECIAL NEEDS FAMILY, I HAD NO IDEA WHAT WE WERE FACING. REGARDLESS OF MY UNDERSTANDING, MY FAMILY AND I WERE ON A ROAD THAT HAD DISTINCT MARKERS. IF I COULD TIME TRAVEL AND HAND MYSELF A ROADMAP, THESE ARE SOME OF THE LANDMARKS ID POINT OUT.
For some of us, we are born into it. For others, like myself, becoming a special needs family was born to me. When my son James arrived, it was not only a surprise (as we thought it was impossible for us to have another child), but a discombobulating experience (because the old roadmap of being a father, caretaker, and husband simply no longer applied). Unless you choose, no one is ready to be part of a special needs family nobody.
I cant really say what it felt like to hear and realize for the first time that my son had Down Syndrome but what I can tell you without a doubt is that any logical assessment I made at that point about what life would look like was completely wrong.
Hopefully, when Im gone, there will be many legacies that have been left behind. One legacy that I can easily own is this: life is unpredictable. There is a lot of hubris wrapped up in the thought that enters most parents minds when they realize they are going to be part of a special needs family. When I thought to myself, I dont understand what is in store for us, I wish a future version of myself could have appeared compassionately, placed a hand on my shoulder and told me, Brother, you will know what life has in store for you soon enough.
So, if you’re reading this, I hope you’ll heed some of my words. Here’s a bit of what you might expect, based upon my experience and the experience of so many of the families we’ve helped.
Transition #1: Old Vision Ends, New Dream Begins
At some point, I realized that the maps of my life as a husband, father, businessman – you name it – simply did not apply to me anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I held onto those old maps for as long as I could until life taught me that I simply could not hold on any longer. However, there is a bit of solace in all this: though the old visions have ended, a new set of dreams begins.
I had never imagined what it would be like to be part of a special needs family. So, for the first time in my life, I started paying attention to how other special needs families operated, where they went to get advice, and how they gathered together as a community. Because I started looking for the first time, there was room for something new.
Transition #2: Re-Looking
As you probably know, as a member in a special needs family, you begin to look at things quite differently than other families. Education and medical concerns take on an entirely different life.
For me, I was fortunate to have an extensive background in the financial services industries. Because of my training, I realized that I needed to re-look at our financial situation as a family as well. I quickly realized that if we were not a special needs family, we would have been ready and preparing for a grand exit from working life, retirement, and inheritance. All of our ducks were in a row but for the wrong life. I saw that, as a special needs family, we were poised for disaster. Special needs families must realize that the old maps of success when it comes to finances simply do not apply to us.
Transition #3: Realizing What Experts Offer
Quite quickly, I also realized that many individuals around the world simply had NO IDEA what they were talking about. They were experts in helping the average family plan for the future. They had no idea how to handle me and my family. Don’t get me wrong: nave experts such as these would have gladly worked with me, taken my money, and provided us with a suite of products. Had I followed their advice, things could have been quite bad for my family.
Instead, I realized that I needed to become educated by experts who work with special needs families, those that truly work in the trenches that I was working in each day with my son. Because I reached out to such experts, I found myself more able to give my son what he was due from the moment he was born: understanding his benefits.
Transition #4: Learning From Others That Truly Understand
I recall quite distinctly speaking with a dear friend about benefits. This was before I was fully educated on the matter. I was dragging my feet in getting started with putting the right pieces into place to ensure my son received what he could. My friend said to me quite poignantly, Grady, these are not your benefits: they are your sons benefits. For me, that was a major shifting point. This is where I realized that I was potentially withholding or denying something from my son that was potentially his. At this moment of transition, I made it my mission to take the necessary steps to put a full plan into place for my son and his future.
If you are standing inside one of the transitions mentioned above, I urge you to make an appointment with us. We consult with families at no cost to assist you in putting together a Life Care Plan for your special needs family member.
If not today, when?
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