One Step at a Time

by Michael Woods

adapted by Colleen Swindoll Thompson

One Step at a TimeDon Bennett was on top of the world. He was wealthy; he owned a ranch, an eight-bedroom waterfront home on Mercer Island, and a ski chalet. Life was good, until everything changed. A boating accident resulted in Don losing his right leg; and while he was in the hospital, his business fell to pieces.

After his recovery, he became determined to do something that he had never done before: climb the 14,411-foot Mt. Rainier. With a team of four others, Don began a grueling one-year training regimen, and on July 15, 1982, he and his team began the climb. He climbed for four days, 13 hours a day, sometimes hopping, sometimes crawling up the incline on one leg. On July 18, 1982, Don Bennett touched the top . . . the first amputee ever to summit Mt. Rainier.

Don Bennett accomplished his goal because he identified one essential need: he had to have a support team. His dedicated, dependable, devout support team cared for his needs by helping him remain healthy, find support resources, and learn new skills, and by providing him counseling when he struggled.

God didn’t create us to live independently. This truth is clearly revealed when we are required to care for loved ones who have significant needs. In times like these, we must live interdependently . . . first by having Christ as Lord of our lives, then by humbly accepting the fact that we need one another to help us climb the mountains life places in our path.

Using the caregiving requirements of those with significant needs as our example, teamwork involves these four essentials:

  1. Family and friends—Those who are closest to you can serve as your extended eyes, hands, and legs to help you get things done.
  2. A general medical doctor—Find a doctor who has professional knowledge about your care-receiver’s special needs, such as autism, Down syndrome, dementia, and so on. Make sure he or she understands your child’s or dependent parent’s needs and is genuinely compassionate about your loved one’s condition. Remember, you are your loved one’s advocate. You want a capable and caring doctor on your team. Nothing less.
  3. Training and support—There are a variety of excellent resource organizations that can provide educational materials, listings of support groups, caregiver resources—including information about after-school or adult-daycare programs—respite services, upcoming caregiver events, conferences, webinars, and links to a variety of further helps and supports.
  4. The Internet—You’re going to want to do some “continuing education” online to learn all you can about the specific needs of the person you care for. Also, online support communities are priceless. Finding other folks who have similar circumstances as yours can provide a connection others can’t understand.1Adapted from Michael Woods, “The Top 5 Ingredients of a Good Support Team,” Relational Crisis Prevention, http://relationalcrisisprevention.com/2011/07/11/you-cant-do-it-alone/, accessed September 26, 2011.

Additional Resources

  • Relational Crisis Prevention: http://relationalcrisisprevention.com/about/
  • Special Friends Ministry: http://specialneedsministry.org/

Notes:   [ + ]

1. Adapted from Michael Woods, “The Top 5 Ingredients of a Good Support Team,” Relational Crisis Prevention, http://relationalcrisisprevention.com/2011/07/11/you-cant-do-it-alone/, accessed September 26, 2011.
  • Excellent post…all four components are truly essential. I would add the most general medical doctors probably don’t have the in-depth understanding of complex disabilities to be the best possible advocate for the person with special needs.

  • Colleen Swindoll Thompson

    Steve, coming from you—so well educated yet so thoroughly aware of the challenges, we both encourage others to seek information about their children’s disabilities, their rights, and how to advocate. No one knows their child better than mom and dad!
    Colleen