Focus resources gave this family help and hope in raising their special needs son
Families often need extra support when they have a special needs child – a reality Linda Ruth and her husband, Peter, know all too well. Their 13-year-old adopted son, Philip, is on the fetal alcohol syndrome disorder (FASD) scale, and faces many cognitive and behavioural challenges that have become more difficult to navigate as he grows older.
“Our son was exposed to fairly high levels of alcohol during gestation from his birth mother,” Linda Ruth says. “He has recently been assessed as age five in his cognitive development.”
While Philip has no visible markers of his condition, it makes his situation that much more challenging. “Over the last few years, school has become more and more difficult,” Linda Ruth explains. “Some days he just cries.”
It has been no less stressful at home. “There have been times where he is so frustrated he will throw his band instrument and he will break pencils; he will rip books,” Linda Ruth says. “We have learned to not get too concerned with that kind of stuff. Peter and I pray together first thing in the morning and at night as well. Often, if things are really difficult with Philip or if he has fully escalated, we have learned to just drop to our knees and pray, ‘Thank you God that you are here, for your peace that passes understanding, thank you for wisdom.’”
Linda Ruth admits that parenting a child with special needs can be a lonely experience for parents, and can negatively impact marriage and family relationships. That’s why she and her husband are so grateful for the help they’ve received from Focus over the years.
“Our marriage would not have survived without you,” she acknowledges. “And we have received so much encouragement from Focus as we deal with the special needs of our son.”
From stories of parents like Emily Colson who are walking a similar journey to the faith-filled fun of Adventures in Odyssey that Philip enjoys, reliable advice from experts like Dr. Karyn Purvis to the personalized guidance of counselling from Focus, Linda Ruth and her family continue to turn to Focus resources for the biblically based help and support they need.
Bolstered by that help and encouragement, they’ve been able to provide their son – and his birth family – with a warm, loving, grace-filled home. “We have an open adoption with them and it’s an absolute blessing; we are all like extended family,” Linda Ruth says with a smile. “We say that we have adopted them.”
“I believe so strongly that God put Philip into our lives,” she reflects. “There are so many health professionals . . . who have said that if Philip were in any other family, he would have been abused.”
As a mom with a special needs son, Linda Ruth is keenly aware of the inherent worth and dignity of every human life. “I love that Focus on the Family talks very intelligently about the intrinsic value of life in every individual,” she says. “Focus has thoroughly covered the issue of the sanctity of life and pointed me in very specific directions in how I can read more, learn more about my own views when I’m talking to people who believe otherwise. I have solidified my own stance to become much stronger.”
Linda Ruth encourages families with special needs children to realize they’re not alone. She urges them to ask God for a loving church community who will understand what they’re going through, offer them respite or even just a shoulder to cry on when they need it. Most of all, she stresses the need for husbands and wives to be gracious with one another as they strive to raise their special needs child.
“Look at your child when they’re sleeping and look at the beauty and the wonder of God's creation in them,” she urges. “I have friends with children with all kinds of challenges, and when that child is sleeping, it’s a moment of thanking God, worshipping him and appreciating your child for the beauty that God has placed in them.”
“There are times when things regress, but the thing is, the Lord is with us,” Linda Ruth sums up. “I have seen God give me strength when – honestly – I thought there was no way I could survive the day, and I have seen God sometimes send people, tangible things, intangible things, a refreshing drink of water or a flower. It will lift my spirit. That is the definition of faithfulness, doing things when it is not easy.”
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