Jackie shares that while she and her husband, Rob, were raising their son, Ryan, they realized that something was different when he was only eight months old. They had three older children and could see that Ryan wasn’t meeting the normal milestones. Although he was very active, Ryan did not walk until he was two years old. He received a broad diagnosis of Developmental Disability, and his speech was his primary delay. It was a mystery as to what Ryan would be able to do and how he would navigate life. But fortunately, he was blessed with a happy and content nature.
Jackie says she often felt lonely and isolated. She says, “I had the ‘behind the bleachers feeling’.” While other parents were sitting in the bleachers watching their children play games, I was behind the bleachers watching Ryan run back and forth nonstop. I admit I felt cheated.”
However, there were joys too, especially watching her three other children develop empathy and appreciation for others with disabilities. They continually protected and helped Ryan. The children learned that Ryan required their total attention, so they understood that they were completely responsible while he was in their care. Despite all of this, they never expressed resentment of Ryan. Instead, each of them chose careers where they could help serve people with disabilities.
Jackie admits that she often felt overwhelmed, and her greatest fear was that their family wouldn’t hold together due to all the stress. She is so appreciative for her husband’s calming influence. She says situations like this require the strong faith of both parents, and the father is just as important as the mother. The entire family pulled together to make everything work.
Jackie realized that she needed support, so she started a disability support group at her church and facilitated the group for ten years. Jackie says that the church made significant improvements in welcoming and including people with special needs during that time. It was in that group she learned about the struggles of others, which helped tremendously. She calls those members “her Holland folks,” referring to the lovely poem, “Welcome to Holland,” by Emily Perl Kingsley, (1987), which talks about raising a child with a disability. Click here to read this beautiful poem.
When Ryan was around 3 years old, the school system required a home visit so that he could receive services. “It hurt my pride,” Jackie says. But it prepared her for all the meetings that were to come in Ryan’s future. When he was 18 years old, his parents knew that Ryan would need their guardianship, which requires home visits from the court system. So, Jackie knows that the state is doing its job to protect Ryan and his interests.
Ryan became an active participant in the Special Olympics, but his favorite activity is still therapeutic drama, which he loves. He’s been in some 30 plays and continues to act. Jackie is so grateful to have connected with this supportive community.
Today, Ryan, who is now 34 years old, is in a day program with other adults with disabilities and is doing well. Work has always been a good distraction for Jackie, and she continues to enjoy her job. Her story is a testimony to a family of faith working together to make a difficult situation work.
- Her faith.
- The unending support of her family.
- Her disabilities support group at church.
- When Ryan was older, working part-time provided a good distraction for her.
Mathew 25:40 And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”
Dear Father, what a beautiful example of the faithfulness of this special family. They put their trust in You, and You never failed them. So many times, when we think we have problems, we find that if we just look, so many others are facing difficulties too. So, help us to always be aware of the needs of others, and teach us to care for each other with Your love.