Family Life, October 2018

Family Life, With Special Needs Children

Special Needs Children …
Special Needs Families

by Todd Shupe

Todd Shupe loves to experience life with his son Kyle. He says that seeing the joy in his son’s face brings him happiness.

My second child, Kyle, was born May 24, 2002. He was a big, healthy baby and was, and will always be, a tremendous blessing to me. We noticed at an early age that he was not reaching the typical milestones for babies and toddlers in terms of walking, talking, etc. We had him tested for hearing loss, brain function, blood tests and more. All of the tests came back normal, but his development was not normal. In particular, he showed little interest in talking and had a very limited vocabulary.

Eventually, we received a diagnosis of PDD-NOS (pervasive development disorder – not otherwise specified). I remember looking at that and thinking, “Okay, now we know what we have, so let’s make a plan to fix it.” However, I later realized that his autism is a spectrum disorder with no known cure, and the spectrum covers patients identified as high functioning to severe. To me, the diagnosis sounded more like — We don’t really know what your child has so we created a category and called it PDD-NOS instead of WDK (we don’t know).

Families with a special needs child have special needs of their own — schools, churches, restaurants, dentists, etc. that are accommodating to special needs children. We were blessed to find an excellent Pre-K program at Southdowns Elementary in Baton Rouge. However, Kyle aged out of the program and we were left looking at options that ranged from lousy to expensive. We declined lousy and hired a private teacher to work with our son. Also, our church was accommodating and invited us to attend several meetings to discuss setting up a special needs Sunday School room.

I have heard some parents say that when they received the diagnosis of autism, they felt as if part of their child had died, that their dreams and hopes for their child had been shattered and that their child would not live a “typical” life. I never felt that way. I believe in continuous improvement. So Kyle goes to school all year long. This is expensive, but it is best for his development.

I realize that there are many things he will never do, such as get married, drive a car, or play high school sports — and that is fine with me. I focus on the things that he can do. He can go for walks with me and hold my hand. He can go to the movies with me and share a tub of popcorn and a soda while we enjoy an animated movie. He enjoys playing fetch with our dog. And he can give the best hugs that will cure a headache much better than any aspirin.

A child with special needs certainly puts a strain on any marriage. A 2010 study conducted by the University of Wisconsin at Madison found that parents with ASD children were nearly twice as likely to get divorced than couples without disabled children. The study revealed something else interesting: the divorce rates in parents with disabled children did not increase until the children became teens or adults. My own marriage ended after 20 years when Kyle was 12 years old.

Kyle has a bright future, and I want him to become as independent as possible. Like other children, he yearns for his father’s approval and I try to always acknowledge every good thing that he does. So there is no need to change or “cure” Kyle. He is perfect just as he is. He is a child of God and a tremendous blessing to me. I want him to live a happy life.

We hold hands and pray before each meal. I offer the blessing and then gently squeeze his hand at the end and he clearly and proudly says, “Amen!” Kyle is a blessing to me and has taught me so much about what is really important in life.

Todd Shupe is a wood science consultant and president of drtoddshupe.com. He is the president of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men and is in training as a Men’s Ministry Specialist under the General Commission of United Methodist Men. He writes Christian blogs at toddshupe.com

Todd Shupe is the president of drtoodshupe.com and a Christian blogger at toddshrupe.com. He currently serves as president of Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men and is training to become a men’s ministry specialist under the General Commission of United Methodist Men.

Faith Life, June 2018

Faith Life, Isaac Hammond on why he loves being a “CASA” Advocate for children

Called to Serve as a CASA Volunteer

CASA volunteer Isaac Hammond began his journey with Capital Area CASA Association in March of 2017. During the Sunday worship service at Neely United Methodist Church, there was a message about the mission of CASA and the need for volunteers to be advocates for abused children in the community. Hammond, the pastor of the church, said it was then that the Lord placed on his heart a desire to reach out. He is now in his eighth month as a CASA volunteer.

“I feel that I was called to be a CASA volunteer because in my ministry, I deal with a lot of children with issues in their community and homes,” he said. “I have always had a love for working with children whether it is in Sunday school, Vacation Bible School or coaching the youth basketball team. I love to see children succeed in life and go on to be productive citizens in society.”

Hammond says he wanted to help a child who might not have had all the benefits in life that he did. “There might be something they must overcome to reach the goal that God has called for them,” he said. “So I believe if I can do anything to help someone along the way in life, then my living will not be in vain.”

Volunteers often develop a close relationship with their CASA child. “The biggest payoff of all is seeing a smile on a child’s face … displaying the feeling that they are experiencing someone who is sincere with them.”

Hammond encourages others to get involved with CASA. “God calls us to reach out to help those that may be in need of help,” he said. “It’s our job to fulfill the Great Commission to go out into the world and lead people to a successful life and to happiness.”

His religion has played a role in his participation, Hammond added. “It’s our job as Christians to participate in services (such as CASA) that God has created to help society. It’s our job as Christians to be there, to speak up, and to look out for those who cannot do this for themselves.”

Capital Area CASA is always looking for volunteers to step up and be the voices for abused children in East Baton Rouge Parish. Men and African American volunteers are especially needed. To learn more about CASA. visit www.casabr.org call (225) 379-8598. You can also visit the office at 848 Louisiana Avenue in Baton Rouge.

Cover Story, September 2016

About the Cover

About the Cover

SeptCoverPictured: Nathan D’Gerolamo and Ian Smith

This picture represents a new-found friendship between two young boys that was sparked through their intentional efforts to learn to understand one another, accept their differences, search for similarities and hold tight to common bonds.

As one of the young boys arrived at a Christian day camp this summer worried about fitting in and wondering if he would make new friends, so did the other. And thus the week at camp began for these two boys and their small group with some fear, mistrust and misunderstanding of one another. But with the support and prayers of camp counselors, church staff and family members, and a creative idea that a rainbow loom bracelet and a hug can be given as a peace offering, the tensions were lessened and friendships and bonding began to take hold.

At the end of a week of challenging yet wonderful experiences, these two boys, with arms comfortably resting on one another, represent a coming together of this small group of kids from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, who finally learned to understand and love one another through their common faith.  The seeds of friendship have been planted that can be further nurtured and developed over time.

If a small group of young boys can forgive one another and find common ground peacefully, then let them be an inspiration to the rest of us …

About the Camp, From Lisette West:

The Chapel has partnered with Pine Cove to host Camp in the City – a week of summer day camp loaded with crazy fun and Christian fellowship. Registration is open to K-5th graders all over Baton Rouge and we make special effort to include students from our Kids Hope USA mentoring program with the Chapel’s school partner, Wildwood Elementary.”

Camp is a time of water games, rock climbing, laser tag, etc. -  led by a counselor staff that is passionate about Jesus. They share Jesus’ love with each camper in these activities and Bible study, club time and more. It is with joy and expectancy that the hope of Jesus is extended to transform lives in the community.”

“Pine Cove exists to be used by God to transform the lives of people for His purposes and His glory.”
— Pine Cove Mission