Special Needs Special

**author’s note:  This is a sponsored post in a way, but I will get to that later.  This was supposed to run on the Friday of BlogHer, but due to an internet outage and some other stuff, it didn’t get scheduled.  I am running it now because it’s important to me to fulfill what I said I would do.**

I read a lot of blogs by mother’s and father’s with special needs children.  I’ll be honest and say many times I don’t comment.  Mostly because I don’t know what to say.

I don’t know how to reassure.

I have never been in the position to parent a child with special  needs.

I wish I could say that I have had really positive experiences teaching students with special needs, but that is not totally accurate either.  Most of my autistic and emotionally impaired students do really love me, but not in the classroom.   They love to stop by and talk and talk and talk to me after school though.

I’ve never been uncomfortable around people with special needs, but I don’t know that God blessed me with what it takes to live or work with them full time.  I just don’t feel that I am enough.

I know it’s cliche, but it really does take a special person to commit themselves to working with and loving people with special needs.

My beautiful friend, Trisha, has spent her entire life with people who have special needs.

Her parents run Adult Foster Care homes in the Grand Rapids area, and when she was growing up, her house was a home for ladies.

In fact, her parents didn’t get out of managing their own home until Trisha was in high school.  Now they own three homes, one of which Trisha and her husband, Ben (who has two adopted brothers who are both special needs), live in and manage.

Besides the two of them, they have up to 12 women at a time along with their own four children (ages 5, 3, and twins who are 2 months) living with them.

Running the house is their job.

They can’t just leave whenever they want; everything has to be scheduled so that one of them is home with the ladies at all times.

If they want time off, they have to hire staff, pack up all four kids, and leave their own home.

Not to mention dealing with crappy government funding, guardians who may or may not work with them, special needs program scheduling, staffing, grocery shopping for 18 people, cooking for 18 people, keeping the house to code, cleaning up after “accidents”, and so much more.

They have had medical emergencies ranging from stroke to heart attack.  Trisha has had to say goodbye to women she knew since she was little.

Their children know no different.  Even though the house is separated to give their family some privacy, their boys still play with the ladies from time to time and know them all.

Managing a house of women who have everything from Downs Syndrome to Schizophrenia is not just a job they can do and then leave behind them after an eight hour work day.

It’s their life.

I wish I could say after all the years of being friends and spending time at their house, I am used to their way of life.

I guess in a way, I am.  I don’t get awkward feeling sharing the kitchen with the ladies who are on dishes duty, or when they ask to use the phone, or when it’s time for Ben to do meds.

But I am still in awe of how Ben and Trisha (and their children) can just mesh with all these ladies…and meet their needs without acting like they are “special”.

Or rather…showing the ladies they are special and important…without focusing on the fact that it has anything to do with their needs.

They treat them like normal people.

Because they are.

They are people.

I don’t know if I will ever be able to convey to Trisha and Ben how much I respect what they do.

The world needs more Trishas and Bens.

***Trisha and Ben (owners of Visel AFC) gave me this sponsored post for my birthday back in March.  They asked me to write about my experience with someone with special needs, but the only thing I could think about was how having them in my life, and experiencing their life/job has made me a better person.  I wanted to post this during BlogHer, since they helped me get there, but it didn’t work out.  I hope they still accept this**
About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.


  1. That is a wonderful thing Trisha and Ben do! I’m not sure if I could do something like that, but their story is definitely an inspiration.

  2. Honestly? Before having a child with Downs Syndrome I was never comfortable around people with special needs. The reason? I saw the disability or special need and not the person. What I want more than anything is for the world to see my beautiful baby, not Downs Syndrome. I want the world to see I struggle with the same issues you do with your typical child. I want the world to see that I am a typical parent. I was not blessed with magical powers or abilities.

  3. Wow that is amazing. I am flabbergasted with my BFF’s parents as well and how much of their heart and soul they pour into taking care of foster children with special needs. They give these children, all 5 not including the 2 theyve already adopted, a wonderful home.
    These people are simply a gift from above.

  4. What an amazing family, so glad that you shared their story.

  5. You’re right, the world does need more Trishas and Bens!

    We may not all be someone who can do the job that is their life, but I don’t think we know whether or not we’re someone who could raise a special needs child until that is what becomes part of your life. I didn’t know I was a special needs Mama until I already had been a Mama for several years. I mean I knew there were quirks and needs that were different that other kidlets, but there was no diagnosis for five years and any challenges that were presented were just a part of life, part of loving my rockin’ awesome kidlet. And all a diagnosis did was give those challenges a name and become somewhat of a key to get access to some services (it’s not a Golden Key though, it still takes being the proverbial squeaky wheel to make those services happen). But, the diagnosis, a name for those challenges, didn’t change who my kidlet is.

    All of this aside, I imagine that’s what it’s like for Trisha & Ben’s kids. The women and their challenges are just a part of their life, like you said. Thank you for this post, sponsored or not, it’s a great read, Katie! :>

  6. What a wonderful, loving, and gifted family! Their story is so inspiring! Thank you so much for sharing it!