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10 Ways to Help a Family with Special Needs

I received a message from my best friend this week.

"There have been several times when I've wanted to help your family, but didn't know how."

So many times people wish they could help parents of children with special needs, but have no clue what to do.  It's a complicated subject.  There may be special dietary needs.  Behaviors may be extreme.  What can one do that will actually help and not hinder things?

I used to have a list on hand in case someone asked, but times changed and it no longer fit the needs of our family.  After the conversation with my best friend I realized that it's time for me to make a new list.  There are people out there looking for ways to help, and quite honestly, I would be lying to say I don't need it from time to time.

Today, I share with you my list.  Here are 10 ways to help a family with special needs.  Your list may be completely different than mine based on the needs of your family and what you feel comfortable with.  It's my hope, that by sharing mine, you will be inspired to make your own.  Because let's face it, we can't do what we do, day in and day out, on our own.  We need help.

10 Ways to Help a Family with Special Needs
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10 Ways to Help a Family with Special Needs

1.  Meals

When our kiddos are raging or having meltdowns, there's a good chance that a meal is going to be really late, which in turn causes more behavioral issues.  The simple gesture of having a meal delivered means the world to us, especially if it's food we can all eat despite sensory sensitivities and other special dietary needs.

A dinner delivered from one of our favorite family restaurants (Mark's Pizzeria) or a gift card to a restaurant where we can all order take out is priceless (Kentucky Fried Chicken).  Throw in paper plates, bowls, cups, silverware etc. and you will be considered a best friend for life.  No one has to worry about cooking or doing dishes.

2.  Gas Card

Most of our appointments related to the kiddos' special needs are at least 50 miles away.  It seems like there's always an appointment for someone.  Gas, tolls, and parking expenses add up quickly.  We would never turn down a gas card to help with all of the expenses.

3.  Outdoor Chores

It's hard enough to stay on top of in-house chores, but outdoor chores are neglected more than I'd like to admit, especially when more than one of the kiddos is having a hard day and it takes both parents to keep things going.

If we just happened to look outside and see someone mowing our lawn, raking leaves, shoveling snow, or tending to other outdoor tasks, we would probably cry tears of joy, because it meant one less thing we had to fit into our day.

4.  A Stay-at-Home Date Night Care Package

We don't get out much as finding babysitters that are familiar with and can handle the special needs of the kiddos is extremely difficult.  But we do try to have a weekly date night at home once the kiddos go to bed, especially after an incredibly difficult day when our brains just can't function anymore.

It's those occasions that we're always looking for a new movie to watch (like Jason Bourne or Marvel's Captain America: Civil War on DVD), a new game to play (like Sequence), or book to read aloud together (like Alexander Hamilton).  Pair it with yummy snacks and we're sure to get in couple's time and a little self-care.

5.  Support Our Business

When times are tough, getting work done is pretty much impossible.  Even if we have time, our brains just aren't functioning enough to be productive.  It's during these times that our business suffers and we beat ourselves up for not being able to be consistent.  

You see, blogging is all about how many page views you have each day, how many products you sell, and how many comments and shares you receive on posts that you write. So if you have a moment, it means more than you could imagine if you:

All of these gestures help keep us afloat when we don't have the time or energy to work due to issues related to special needs at home.  It gives us a peace of mind knowing that behaviors won't interfere with our income.

6.  Parent Specific Gift Card

It's a well known fact that if parents receive any type of cash or gift cards, and it can be used on children, it probably will be.  Yet at the same time, it's usually the parents who are in need of basic necessities.  When it comes to parents of special needs children, this is especially the case.  All of our time and energy is being devoted to our children.  Self-care is the farthest things from our mind.

It's in these cases that one can be creative and give a gift card that can only be used for parent specific items.  If I receive a gift card to Eddie Bauer (my go-to outlet clothing store), I can only buy items for myself.  A gift card to this store could result in me having more than three outfits for every season.  It would mean that a clothing item isn't several years old, stained, and ripped in one place or another.  I may just feel human again.

Another area where Jason and I tend to never purchase things we need is in the kitchen. We're talking cookware, bake ware and other kitchen items.  Just ask my mother.  It drives her slightly crazy.  Lol.  The big issue here is that we cook from scratch ALL THE TIME, because of the special dietary needs in the house.  So unless it's of the best quality, we wear through it quickly.  And when something does wear out, we never remember to replace it, like the blender that started smoking in December.

So, if my husband or I received a gift card to Williams-Sonoma (Jason and Renae's favorite kitchen store), we could only spend it on items for our kitchen, which we are in desperate need of.  Have I mentioned Jason's obsession with cooking before?

7.  Home Repair

My husband and I are not blessed with talents or knowledge in the areas of carpentry, plumbing, electrical, or any other home repair specialty.  And even if we were, tending to four children with special needs takes all the time we have and home projects rarely ever are finished 100% of the way. 

Take our upstairs bathtub for example.  I bought caulk for it two years ago, as it desperately needs attention and leaks through to our kitchen ceiling.  Do I feel comfortable doing this myself?  No.  I did it the first time, which is probably why it's leaking now.  Have I found the time to do it without interruption?  Absolutely not.

There is always a home repair project left undone in this house, as it's about 100 years old.  Help with these tasks from a skilled worker who knows what they're doing would be so wonderful.  My dad has helped with some projects in the past but he lives over 120 miles away and just had knee replacement surgery.

8.  Running Errands

Very few know this, but usually my husband or I go grocery shopping at about 1:00 in the morning.  It takes two of us at home with all of the kiddos during the day.  If we attempt to take them with us we run into a whole slew of sensory related issues.  So, unless we build in incentives to help the kiddos through the process, we wait until everyone is asleep to make a grocery list and run to the store.  If someone wanted to stop by and pick up our weekly grocery list along with money and go grocery shopping for us, we would never say no.

Either Jason or I are constantly stopping by the library to pick up or return books.  As a homeschooling family, we're constantly rotating library materials.  If there are significant behaviors at home, chances are something will be overdue and we will owe late fees, because we just can't manage to get to the library on time.  Help with this simple task is always appreciated.

And the post office...  It's the place that Bulldozer avoids due to his adhesive allergy.  Princess and Sunshine can't handle waiting in line.  So, the chances of us ever mailing anything out in a timely manner (unless we have stamps at home and it fits in a standard envelope) is slim to none.  If you're going to the post office and wouldn't mind taking our items too, we would thank you forever.

9.  Sewing Projects

Confession:  I do not sew.  And even if I did, it's one of those tasks I never get to.  Ask my husband.  If someone enjoyed sewing and wanted to volunteer to sew on missing buttons, stitch a few rips and make some desperately needed Montessori materials for me,  I would probably kiss them.

10.  A Bouquet of Flowers

There's just something about a bouquet of fresh flowers that can brighten up any day, especially if it includes red roses (my favorite).  Live flowers change the energy in the house.  They're fragrant and beautiful to look at.  When I need to take a deep breath, what better way to do so than to take time and smell the roses.

The reason for having a list like this, is that those who want to help and can help in the ways you need, are able to do so.  And let's face it, parents of children with special needs do need help, especially when times are extremely difficult.

Some may think a list like this is silly or perhaps even selfish.  Don't listen to them!  If you mention ideas from your list when asked, and people can't help or don't want to help in the ways you need, that's okay.  It doesn't mean they love you any less.  Don't be discouraged.  You've done your part.

It can be so hard to ask for help and at times even harder to receive it.  This may be the time when you need the service.  But know, there will be a time later, when circumstances are different.  You will be able to help others and pay it forward.

After my best friend talked about how she had been wanting to help but didn't know how. She asked me three questions.

1.  Where does my family order pizza from?
2.  What do we order?
3.  What time do we eat dinner?

She had finally come up with a way to help and was so excited about it.  I began to cry.  To her it was a simple thing to order pizza, but to me...  It was such an incredible gift.  Pizza means one night I don't have to worry about managing behaviors and fixing dinner at the same time.  On one of those days when I'm beyond exhausted, it means that I can rest, even if for just a little bit.

You have no idea how much helping a family with special needs can make a difference.  You will forever be considered an angel.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the ones below.

Am I going crazy?  Helpful tips for parents of special needs children.

When nightmares become reality, the story of a mother of a child with PTSD and Reactive Attachment Disorder

Day to day life parenting a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder.

How to recognize signs of a mood disorder in young children.

Autism support and resources for families.

10 Ways to help a Family with Special Needs


  1. very touching... love the way you describe,.. i know some days would be so hard and even a little pleasure gives bundle of joy..

  2. These are great ideas. As someone who is in the same place, I appreciate your taking the time to come up with this list. One thing three or four women have done for our family is to get together and cook meals that can go into our freezer. It is nice to have food that I can grab and put on the table without much thought or effort when I am too exhausted to think straight.

    Another thing that has been a wonderful encouragement is the offer of a few hours of help. They show up and whatever the need is that day, they dig in and help. It could be taking down holiday decorations,helping me pack up and put away out of season clothes or running an errand. It is so much easier with another person there.