By Dr. Naesha Parks
Every family of more than one child understands the challenge that comes with supporting each child individually. Many times, making this a priority can be both taxing and rewarding. For parents, the reward is far greater than the sacrifice. Each child is unique, extraordinary and special. However, helping children recognize this can be quite a mission for parents.
Parents may struggle with concerns like: Do I need to give them an equal amount of my time? Do they understand that one child requires more help than the other, but I love them both the same?
At some point, we’ve all asked these questions. There is an innate desire in every parent to be everything, everywhere, all the time for their children. These questions develop even broader observations in families of special needs.
Let’s explore life through the lens of a sibling with a sister who has a disability.
As the day begins in Susan’s house, she goes to her children’s bedrooms to wake them up for the day. Waking the oldest child requires a simple knock on the door. However, waking her youngest daughter, who has a physical disability, requires one-on-one assistance as well as an entire morning routine. Once out of bed, there’s a brief moment to say good morning, followed by an assisted hygiene and dressing routine. Then, into the wheelchair and the dining room for breakfast. The highlight of the morning comes when their eyes meet for the second time with an exchange of a smile, kiss, and quick “I love you.” The start of the morning prepares them to conquer whatever comes for the day.
In the breakfast room, the sibling who heard the knock on her door is dressed, at the breakfast table and going through her book bag. “Good morning!” she says. Mother and daughter make eye contact and say, “I love you.” Immediately, mom’s heart makes room for a quick, but sweet time with her. She reminds her daughter of how proud she is of her for getting up right away and managing her day. She compliments her outfit and discusses an upcoming class celebration while making breakfast for both girls. Sitting at the table, the girls chat and connect in their way. As mom scrambles eggs, she glances to see the sisters trade light laughs and endearing kisses. Mom’s heart is whole.
You might say this sounds like a typical morning, and you are probably right. Typically-abled children and children with disabilities are each special and unique to their family, as well as the world. Although the rest of the world may see a girl with a disability, her sister sees her best friend.
A native of Thomson, Dr. Naesha Parks received her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and her Specialist and Doctoral degrees in Educational Leadership. Dr. Parks is the author of the book, “The Heart Feels First”, which chronicles the near-death experience that left her with a deep faith in a big God. Currently, she is principal of Evans Elementary School and serves as an administrator in the Columbia County School System. She is married to Keenan and mother to Chandler, Sydney, Chance and Reese.