Most of the time the arrival of a new baby is a joyous event to his or her parents. But, what if that baby has a disability? Is the welcome sign just as big, or is there hesitancy, or even shame? Raising any child has its challenges and the question can be asked about any child, was he or she a burden or blessing? But, are the challenges magnified if the child has intellectual or developmental disabilities? Or, are they just different challenges?
 
Burden or blessing? Well, I guess that depends on your perception. It is intriguing that the same event is perceived to be a burden by one person and counted as a blessing by another. For example, I have spoken with hundreds of parents of adult children with disabilities over my 32-year career and an overwhelming majority recall how their child has blessed them and their entire family. They typically point out how others looking at their situation would say, “Wow, that must be a burden to have a child like that. I don’t think I could have done it.” These outsiders focus on the limitations; whereas, the parents focus on the joy of even minor accomplishments and advances. Perhaps all of this can be summed up by one of my favorite quotes by Alphonse Karr: “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” At the end of the day, it really is about perception, and parents of children with disabilities tell me their perceptions changed. They now recognize what is really important in life and how they have been blessed by their circumstances.
 
Burden or blessing? It’s in the eye of the beholder, and those of us with front-row experience, we say, “blessing.” Speaking personally, I love all my children; all are a blessing in my life, including my daughter with a disability. I can’t imagine what life would be like without any of them.

If you have a story you want to share with the world about your son or daughter with a disability, please share it with us.

Gerald Nebeker

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