See abilities instead of disabilities. Shift your focus from what your child can’t do to all that he or she can do. Assess your child’s unique gifts and offer him or her appropriate enrichment activities. Express some progress in various areas as your child matures, and celebrate whenever your child masters new skills. Give your child opportunities to act as a positive role model for younger children who suffer from the same or a similar disability.

Give God your worries about the future. Whenever a worry enters your mind (such as where your child will end up after you pass away), pray about it. Trust that God will hear and answer your prayers, often in ways you can’t imagine. Remember that your child ultimately belongs to Him, and He loves him or her deeply. Don’t assume the worst for your child’s future; pray for the best, and know that you have real hope because the God who loves your child also controls the future.

Enjoy your child. Ask God to help you see beyond the demands of caring for your child and come to enjoy his or her company. Think about what qualities about your child’s personality you most enjoy. Make time to do fun activities together. Realize that your child sees your face often, and he or she shouldn’t always see an expression of fatigue or anxiety. Try to smile at your child as often as possible, communicating your love to him or her.

Invite God to teach you true love through your child. Let your parenting experiences help you discern what matters and what doesn’t. Trade your cynicism for wonder. Let go of petty concerns, and focus on love – for God and other people. Rejoice in the freedom you have to love your child no matter what, and the knowledge that God loves you no matter what.

Adapted from An Unexpected Joy: The Gift of Parenting a Challenging Child copyright 2006 by Mary Sharp, M.D. Published by Pinon Press, a division of NavPress, Colorado Springs, Co.,

Mary Sharp, M.D. has been a practicing family physician for 20 years and the mother of an autistic child, Nic, for 12 years. She lives with her husband Rafael (also a physician), and their two older children in East Lansing, Mich.