I was really excited to come across this resource the other day on the website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, geared towards knowing how to include and reach out to those with special needs.
Six months ago, my daughter was diagnosed in the NICU with a brain injury that will have lifelong implications. In common terminology, her injury manifests itself under the all-inclusive/broad term “cerebral palsy.”
Initially, her diagnosis was excruciating to hear as all our dreams and expectations had to change. One of the best sources of hope for me then and now is keeping an eternal perspective of her mortal condition.
She was once, just like all of us, a spirit who dwelt with Heavenly Father prior to birth. Her perfectly formed spirit did not have cerebral palsy then and does not have cerebral palsy now. Her condition is a temporal, or bodily, condition. She needed to come to Earth to receive a body as part of her eternal progression and to learn important lessons here, many of which will be related to the challenges of her temporal condition. The strongest spirits, I believe, often come in the weakest bodies.
Jesus Christ’s resurrection means so much more to me now, and without that hope, my daughter’s situation would be a lot harder for me to accept. I like to think of a butterfly as a symbol for my daughter. Although she is trapped in the cocoon of an imperfect mind, one day she will emerge glorious and perfect into who she really is inside. One day her spirit and her body will be reunited, free from the challenges she experienced on Earth, “restored to [a] proper and perfect frame” (Alma 40:23).
President Packer, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, shared this insight about people with special needs: “Spirits which are beautiful and innocent may be temporally restrained by physical impediments. If healing does not come in mortal life, it will come thereafter. Just as the gorgeous monarch butterfly emerges from a chrysalis, so will spirits emerge.”
The Spirit has taught me that I, too, am meant to be changed through my experiences with my daughter. Heavenly Father has greater things in store for us than we had planned. His ways and thoughts are higher than my ways and thoughts (Isaiah 55:9).
President Packer said, “If our view is limited to mortal life, some things become unbearable because they seem so unfair and so permanent. There are doctrines which, if understood, will bring a perspective toward and a composure regarding problems which otherwise have no satisfactory explanation.”
For me, those hopeful doctrines include the eternal nature (no beginning and no ending) of the soul, the perfect restoration made possible through the Resurrection, and the enabling power of Christ’s Atonement which gives me strength to confront challenges.
I need the Savior’s grace, His power, on a daily basis to handle the challenges of being a mother. As I actively look for His grace and tender mercies amid the challenges, I realize He is helping me. I know His love has a healing power. When my faith submits to fear and I start to sink into seas of sadness and despair, I need to be like Peter and reach out to Jesus for His sustaining power. Seek His wisdom and guidance, strength, love. Trust His plan for our family and that He will make great things come from this. Easier said than done sometimes, but He is coaching me through it.
Note: I am still learning much about special needs and eternal perspective. I know there are people with more experience and profound insights. If you have something to add, please comment below!