Read below for an interview with Lorna Bradley, author of the new book, Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving (affiliate links included).
What is Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving? Who is it for?
Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving is a book written for any parent or loved one of a person with special needs, offering emotional and spiritual support for the journey of special needs. This book presents a grace-filled understanding of God’s presence in the midst of special needs, as well as practical tools for parenting that can be revisited again and again to help parents move from coping to thriving. In the appendices in the back, I have also included tips for starting and sustaining a support group, as well as additional supportive resources. While the book is a powerful resource for the individual reader, my original vision for it is as a seven-week small group study used by a congregation, or any supportive community. One church with which I partnered plans to use it as a training resource for Stephen Ministers who are walking with special needs families. Another church expressed an interest in using it as a welcome gift for special needs families who are new to their congregation.
What inspired you to write Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving?
Years ago a member of my congregation asked me to lead a Bible study for parents of children with special needs. I assumed I could go to my local Christian bookstore and buy a Bible study ready to go right off the shelf. That search met with no success and I ended up developing my own material. When that four-week study ended I had parents who wanted to continue to meet. It was then I understood parents needed more than lessons; they needed community and support. I was in the midst of a doctoral program at the time and realized that I had found a place of great unmet need, both within the church and within the lives of special needs parents like myself.
You are very open about your life as a special needs parent. How did you get the courage to write in from that perspective book?
In writing this book I opened a window into my private life as a special needs parent and share freely with others. This book is written from a place of great vulnerability and I made a deliberate decision to do so. The reality is that all parents on the special needs journey experience that vulnerability regularly. Is there a place for me and for my child? Will we be accepted? Will we be judged for our differences? As parents we can become fiercely protective, with the side-effect of also becoming isolated. In the willingness to share our vulnerability with each other, openly encountering in community common emotional and spiritual challenges, we find there connection, understanding and healing. If I cannot reveal myself to my readers, how can I expect them to go without me to that vulnerable place of hope and healing?
What is your background in special needs ministry?
In addition to being the mother of an adult son with Asperger’s, I am an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church. I led welcoming ministries for over ten years and began leading special needs support groups about six years ago. Inspired by the parents in my groups and my work as a theologian, I completed a doctorate of ministry that focused in how churches can offer a holistic welcome to families raising children with special needs. Since then I have served as a Fellow at the Hope and Healing Institute in Houston, Texas and have launched special needs support groups in a variety of settings.
How was the material for Special Needs Parenting developed? How did you choose the chapter topics?
By working directly with parents over the years, and through research, I focused on key areas in which special needs parents typically experience challenges. While each of our children are as unique as fingerprints and no child is exactly the same as our own, our experiences as special needs parents have common threads that connect us. I chose the chapter topics based on those common emotional and spiritual challenges: God and special needs, chronic grief, breaking free from guilt, tools to increase patience, self-care for caregivers, building healthy relationships, and hope and healing. After writing the book, I formed six pilot groups, four led by myself and two by another pastor. Each group met for seven weeks, and exit surveys collected were positive beyond my greatest dreams. The stories and practical tools shared in the chapters have had a meaningful impact in the lives of readers and small group participants.
Where can readers learn more about your book?
They can visit my website and look through the tab “From Coping to Thriving.” There is more information about the book there, as well as feedback from parents in the pilot groups and endorsements by a variety of disability ministry leaders. I also post a weekly devotion on my website that is a source of ongoing emotional and spiritual nurture for parents.
Where can readers buy a copy?
Rev. Dr. Lorna Bradley, an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church, received MTS and D. Min. degrees from Perkins School of Theology. As a Fellow at The Hope and Healing Institute in Houston, Texas she creates resources for special needs family support. She and her husband of thirty years have an adult son with Asperger’s. She speaks around the country at disability conferences and writes a weekly blog at her website.