When Elijah was in preschool, there were signs that his reading and writing skills were developing more slowly than those of his peers. Perhaps he would catch up soon—some children are just late bloomers, I assured myself.

But it didn’t happen when he entered primary school. Learning spelling was especially challenging (and still is today). No matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t remember most of the words. And it wasn’t limited to English—he used to read numbers backwards, such as reading “16” as “61”.

Learning Chinese was the most difficult: he frequently melded the strokes of different Chinese characters into unrecognisable characters. Following the advice of some friends and his form teacher, we sent Elijah for a formal assessment, and the psychologist confirmed the diagnosis: our son was dyslexic.

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The diagnosis left me exasperated and helpless; I just didn’t know what I could do as his main caregiver. It took me two years before I began to accept Elijah’s condition. In the process, I also learnt some lessons about God and His love, as I journeyed with my son:

1. God displays His power and glory in a child with special needs.

Despite his condition, I know for sure that Elijah is no less valued by God. I take great comfort that some of the characters in the Bible—like Gideon and Moses—whom God used to display His power and glory, were in fact weak vessels.

I personally believe God has given my son two special gifts. One of them is an affection for God: when Elijah was seven, he was greatly troubled after hearing the Easter message, and kept imagining Christ’s suffering and death. My husband and I shared the gospel with him, and he prayed to receive Christ. Subsequently, he would pester us to read Bible stories to him.

Our son’s earnestness to listen to and obey God’s Word is so precious to us. I can only conclude that Elijah is very precious to his heavenly Father, who has put in his heart an extraordinary dose of affection for Him so that through him, the power and glory of God can be displayed in him (John 9:3).

2. The love that God lavishes on a child with special needs is not any less than on a child who is “normal”.

Aside from blessing Elijah with an affection for Him, I believe that God has given him another gift—a love and compassion for people.

Though he is the youngest in the family, he writes cards to his brothers on special occasions like their birthdays and when they sit for examinations. He also writes me and my husband letters with Bible verses to encourage us. Once, he gave me a letter with some money he had saved, to bless me for a dinner that I was having with my friends that day.

He enjoys serving others: at home, he sometimes prepares drinks and meals for us, and when his father comes home from work, he offers to put his shoes back and carry his bag. Once, a sudden downpour forced me to run to the car so that I could drive back to pick up Elijah, who was waiting at a shelter. When he saw me drenched, he exclaimed, “I should be the one sacrificing, not you!”

I was incredibly touched—and reminded of Christ’s love and how He gave His life to atone for our sins even though we were sinners. If not for His sacrificial love, we would not be able to escape God’s just wrath. This became a teachable moment for both Elijah and me: God used it to not only remind me of His love, but also to give me the opportunity to share the lesson with my son.

Witnessing his love and affection for others, I can see how it is an outpouring of God’s love and favour upon him. It reminds and comforts me that God does not love my son any less than other children because of his condition.

Ee-ping with Elijah on a bridge

3. God has His plans to prosper a child with special needs.

“Mum, I’m a pipsqueak, right?”

Even when he was young, Elijah was not able to escape a culture where good grades equates success.

As a parent and educator brought up in this same culture where academic excellence is prized, I have had high expectations for my boys. I was thus naturally mortified when people labelled Elijah as stupid, lazy, and distracted.

But what really broke my heart was hearing Elijah identify himself with these same labels—a pipsqueak being someone seen as insignificant and unimportant.

Once, when I was helping him with an English essay, I bellowed in frustration after correcting him for what seemed like the umpteenth time: “How can you not know how to spell these words? We have learnt them before! They’re simple words. How can you ever write an essay on your own?”

Then, realising how much my words hurt him, I later hugged and apologised to him.

I am learning to see how His plans to prosper him are very different: Elijah’s hope and future lie not in academic or financial success, but in the assurance of salvation through Jesus Christ, and the blessing of God’s presence.

Through Elijah, God has reminded me to abandon my worldly expectations of success and prosperity for my son. I am learning to see how His plans to prosper him are very different: Elijah’s hope and future lie not in academic or even future financial success, but in the assurance of salvation through Jesus Christ, and the blessing of God’s presence.

As 1 Peter 1:3–4 reminds us:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.

4. As a parent of a child with special needs, my responsibility is to nurture and help him fulfil the role God has called him to.

Having raised Elijah over the years, I’ve learnt that God made no mistake when He created my child. He is a precious gift from God—and I would not have wished for any other child. He is beautiful, just as God has created him.

My role as his mother is to nurture him and help him find areas where he can thrive and glorify God in his stewardship of the time, gifts, and talents he has been blessed with.

For example, Elijah has displayed an aptitude for sports as well as an avid imagination. While we try not to put pressure on him to “succeed” in these fields, we also try not to allow his dyslexia to be an excuse to settle for less, if it is within his reach.

So we’ve tried to expose him to various sports like swimming, rugby, and soccer, and let him take part in competitions in colouring, toy-making, and writing to stretch his imagination. Each time he wins a competition, his confidence is boosted.

This has enabled him to cope with unhelpful criticism. To the friend who used to jeer at him for his poor literacy skills, Elijah was able to tell him confidently that he might be weak in his studies, but he has a strong character. To the chess instructor who belittled him and did not believe he could ever learn, Elijah could boldly say that he was glad he had done well in his class tests, above his own expectations.

My role as his mother is to nurture him and help him find areas where he can thrive and glorify God in his stewardship of the time, gifts, and talents he has been blessed with.

1 Corinthians 1:27 tells us that “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong”. Our children might appear weak before the world because of their special needs, but they are weak vessels that God can use to proclaim His saving grace and love.

Fellow parents, may we have faith to believe what God can do through these special ones—and through us, as we love them with His sacrificial love, day by day.

Ee Ping spent 12 years in the teaching profession. She recently took a break from her full-time job to spend time with her three boys. Currently, she is a part-time lecturer, a freelance writer, and a certified parenting facilitator. When she is not working or playing with her boys, she will be reading and blogging about issues that are close to her heart.
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