Six ways to support families with a child with special needs

Written by Jen Forsthoff
Published on January 21, 2022

You may be living the life of a special needs parent, or you are a caring family member or friend who wants to know your role in connecting and supporting your loved one as they care for their child. 

You are watching their family each day raising their child and dealing daily with the challenges that come with their diagnosis. As you are from the outside looking in, maybe you have wondered at times how to show your love and support. Let me encourage you, the most simple things are the most meaningful. I want to share with you some of the most basic needs of a family who is raising a child with special needs and what you can do to show support.  

6 ways to show support

1. Be a friend

Many families who are raising a child with special needs feel alone and simply need a friend. Their child’s diagnosis can make them feel different from other families and find it difficult to connect with other parents whose parenting journey is different. 

They need your friendship. They need you to call them on the phone and ask them out for coffee. They need to know you care about them and their family. They need your friendship. 

2. Ask about their child 

Sometimes we avoid topics of conversation that we have little experience with or make us uncomfortable. You may know very little about their child’s diagnosis, but let that spark conversation to learn more.  

With compassion in your heart, ask how their child is doing. They want to talk about their child, and it helps to know you are interested and that you care. Parents of a special-needs child have ups and downs and they want to process with someone, and you can be that someone. 

Ask what you can celebrate with them about their child. Ask how you can pray for their child. Ask to see pictures on their phone (every parent has pics of their kids on their phones, and if you are like me you have to buy more storage just to keep up). 

Don’t let their child or their diagnosis be an unspoken topic of conversation. Become a safe place, a caring friend who they know they can share and be real with.  

3. Listen

After you ask your questions, simply listen. Whether they are ready to share a little or a lot. Listen, really listen. You may have advice or feel the impulse to fix a problem, but do your best to listen unless you are asked to give feedback. 

As conversation unfolds, ask more questions, while respecting the family, but show support and love as you take genuine interest and express your love for their child and their family.  

4. Offer to pray 

The most powerful thing you can do for your friend or family member who is raising a child with special needs is to pray. 

Pray for the concerns and needs they express to you. Pray for their marriage. Pray for the siblings of the child with special needs. Pray for upcoming doctors’ appointments, therapies, schooling. Pray for miracles and breakthroughs for their child. 

As God leads, send them a text during the week with a scripture that you are praying over them and their child. Your prayers will help minister to them and can even carry the family into much needed miracles.  

5. Seek to encourage

Look for ways to encourage them and their family. Parents can often feel overwhelmed and inadequate to help their child work through present challenges. They are dealing with fears and the unknowns of the future. Your encouragement can be just what they need to keep going.  

Tell them the way you see God working in their family. Tell them the progress you see their child making. Tell them the strengths you see in them as a parent. 

Encouragement and speaking life into one another is powerful. Your words of encouragement will bring strength to their heart and keep them focused on the good that God is doing in their family.  

6. Get Practical 

If you really want to go the extra mile to support your friend or family member who is parenting a special-needs child, get practical and meet a need. 

What is a need that you have the means to meet? Can you give time, energy, financial support? Maybe you want to offer to babysit their child so mom and dad can go on a much-needed date to reconnect. Maybe you want to take your friend out to lunch just to talk and spend time listening and giving them some time away from their role as parent to just laugh and enjoy an afternoon out. 

Maybe you want to eliminate some stress and pay for some takeout for dinner so they can enjoy an easy meal. Maybe you see laundry piling up and can offer to take a few loads to do at your house. 

Even if they don’t take you up on your offers, the fact that you cared and wanted to help will be an encouragement to their hearts.  

The greatest is love

My friend, if you do one or all of the above you are living out the scriptures. “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV). 

You are showing love. You are making a great impact. You are being the hands and feet of Christ. Your heart to support your friend or family member is the heart of Jesus. Jesus came to serve and not be served. 

Your loving support to be a friend, show interest in their child, listen, pray, encourage and meet practical needs is the heart of Jesus on display. 

As you discover your role and the opportunity you have to help your loved one who has a special-needs child, let me say on behalf of a family who has been on the receiving end of what was mentioned above, thank you.  

Thank you for caring. Thank you for wanting to come alongside our family and journey with us. We need you. 

We may not always be able to express what we need when we need it, but your support and love brings life and healing to our family.   


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Jen Forsthoff

Jen Forsthoff is the author of Chosen for Charlie: When God Gifts You With a Special- Needs Child and Champion For Charlie: Rise Up and Advocate For Your Child. Jen and her pastor-husband, Lucas, live in Michigan with their three children. Their oldest, Charlie, was diagnosed with Trisomy 21 at birth and has opened their eyes to the needs of families just like theirs. Raising Charlie, along with her experience as a classroom teacher and in ministry, has fueled Jen’s passion to positively impact families who face the challenge of parenting a child with special needs.  She writes, speaks, and advocates for families who need a message of hope and biblical truth to shape the everyday perspective of their role as the parent and champion for their child. In both ministry and educational platforms, Jen is a voice for parents raising a special-needs child. As God has opened doors through radio, television, community events/organizations, and ministry partnerships, she continues to bring a message of hope to families. You can connect with Jen at and on Instagram @jforsthoff.

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