Adopting a Child with Special Needs

Last week I wrote part one of a blog post on Bernie and Sheila Winter and their daughter Grace, who was born with Down Syndrome. Part one centered on their adoption journey and life with Grace. The second part will focus specifically on special needs adoption.

Adopting a child with special needs can be an intimidating thought, but Sheila said that the sate of New York and all of the county workers have helped them immensely throughout the last two years.

“You’re never alone, not for a minute. Our state is wonderful with early intervention and they get therapists in there and they are very proactive about it. They ask ‘what does your child need?’ and they just go with it. It’s beautiful,” Sheila said.

Grace received therapy at home for over a year and this year started taking a bus to Bornhava school. At Bornhava, Grace is currently learning sign language.

“With Down Syndrome, your oral motor skills don’t develop as quickly as someone who doesn’t have special needs, and they’re main frustration is they really just need to be able to communicate with you,” Sheila said. “Sign language gives you that opening so you can communicate and know what your baby wants.”

Besides getting involved with the state early on, Sheila’s other piece of advice to parents considering adopting a child with special needs is to find a pediatrician that you are comfortable with.

“If you’re not comfortable with the doctor for your child, get another one, because you need to be able to talk to them, you need to be able to pick up the phone and tell them where you’re at,” Sheila said. “(The doctors) will work with you and you can work with them, and if you don’t have that relationship, you need to find one that you do have that relationship with. It puts you at ease.”

For Bernie, the key to adopting a child with special needs has been patience.

“The biggest thing, as long as you are willing to be patient and work with your child, it is the most rewarding thing that could ever happen to you,” Bernie said. “Grace, to us, is a normal child, and while she has to go through therapies to get her to where she is, Grace is the best kid I know.”

Adopting a child with special needs is not without its challenges. Bernie said that one of the main challenges is “you always have that little extra worry about ‘is there something wrong because of the Down Syndrome, or is it something normal that comes up through life.”

Despite the challenges, Sheila believes that adopting a child with special needs is a gift that keeps on giving.

“The bonds seem stronger. Every night you lay your baby down and put your child to bed, and you just know that today was for her or him, and us. It’s just so overwhelming,” Sheila said.

Adoption STAR will be hosting its Annual Shining STAR Event on Wednesday, November 2, at Shea’s Performing Arts Center in downtown Buffalo. Shining STAR’s goal is to raise money to support children with special needs.

If you are interested in learning more about growing your family through adoption, please visit the adoptive parents section of the Adoption STAR website. You can contact the agency by email or call us toll-free at 1(866)691-3300.