Often when we hear these words, we think of accommodating those with disabilities. However, providing reasonable accommodations goes beyond just the person with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations should also extend to the family unit. As the holiday season approaches, I encourage family, friends, agencies, organizations and churches to think of the entire family. When inviting the family that has extra needs, take the time to speak with them and find how you can reasonably accommodate their participation in the event planned. In addition, if the event is planned for just the parents/caretaker, and they are invited, be understanding of their family dynamics. The parent/caretaker will need as many details and as much time as possible to help them plan to be a part of the event. Questions will be asked, not to be offensive or to escape from the invitation. Questions are asked to maneuver schedules and put the proper safeguards into place. The lives of Parents/Caretakers of people with extraordinary needs will always be a balancing act, like most, but with extra bells and whistles. Parents/caretakers will often go above and beyond to make attending the event, it is not something we complain or broadcast to others, but just simply do, with the details given, to be included. For me it may be depending on where the invited event may be, I may travel a day ahead to take our daughter to her grandparents’ home to spend the weekend while I attend the event. Other times it could be as simple as prepping meals and laying out clothes for her while I am gone. Always ahead of time speaking to her to let her know mommy will be gone, but Lord willing I will be back. Depending on what is needed may mean that I will miss out on some of the events planned, but I am happy to simply fit in where I can get in and enjoy being invited and included. My desire is to be able to do it all, but I am okay with knowing that will not always be possible and enjoy what I can.
Last, I would like for the inviter to be mindful that our family dynamics do not change from event to event. There will always be extra involved. The most hurtful words you can say to a parent/caretaker of a person with extra needs, especially after the invitation has gone out and accepted, is “Perhaps this time the event is not for you” or “Maybe next time you can attend?” It is even worse when you already know the family dynamic before making the invitation. We get that our family dynamics are not always thought of when planning and that is why we ask questions and the asking of questions should never be frowned upon. When the parent is asking, that is a time to talk and figure out what can be accommodated. I am far more acceptable of “I didn’t think of that. Let me see what I can do and get back to you.”
Whether you are planning an event for family, an agency, organization or church, the ask for reasonable accommodations is so that the parent can be included, fit in where they can reasonably get in. In most instances we are grateful, thankful and overjoyed to be thought of and invited. Yet please be mindful that the invitation is not inclusion. Inclusion is recognizing the family dynamics, what is going on around them and being willing to make some reasonable accommodations so they can actually attend some, if not all, of the event. The worst thing to do is to invite a parent/caretaker to an event and then realize you will exclude them from participating. Ouch, that hurts.
Parents, Stay Encouraged. Remember that you are loved by the greatest and Jesus has not forgotten you. You are included in the body of Christ.