For parents of special needs children perhaps the most stressful and anxious time is when you are first told that your child has problems. That first diagnosis is such a shock. You don’t know what to do, you don’t know what to think, and you feel completely overwhelmed with it all. One of the most helpful things for parents of special needs children is when they hear stories of other families who have already gone through similar experiences and have shared their story. The challenges and struggles are universal, no matter what the disability or the severity. Just knowing that someone else is out there facing the same worries and fears, and has taken the time to tell that story, can be very reassuring.
In this episode of Special Parents Confidential I’d like to introduce you to just such a parent. In 1970, Donna Kirk, who, with her husband Ed, is from a town near Toronto, Canada, had gone to the hospital for the birth of her first son, Matthew. But problems occurred and their baby had oxygen loss during birth and suffered severe brain damage. The next day their son was transferred to Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto where the doctor there told them that their son was basically, in his words, “a vegetable with a heartbeat”. This doctor advised them to institutionalize their son and have another baby as soon as possible… implying that they should just forget Matthew.
Donna and Ed ignored what the doctor told them and took him home as soon as they could. They fought for him and cared for him throughout his entire life and, in the process, proved that first doctor and many other people wrong about Matthew’s abilities. Ed and Donna had two other children after Matthew, a brother an sister. Matthew died at the age of 40 in 2010, and Donna has written a book called, Finding Matthew, about his life, his challenges, and the struggles that she and her husband went through from his devastating diagnosis to his ultimately successful life and becoming a contributing member to society. The book shows how even the most severely disabled people have incredible gifts and how the family can work together to get through any adversity. It’s definitely a must-read for all parents of special needs children and their families.
Donna’s extraordinary book, Finding Matthew is available on Amazon Books, and you an click either of those links to take you to the page. Donna Kirk also has a blog site where she posts resource information and updates. Just click on her name and you’ll be re-directed to her site.
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