Your child is God's tool, His special agent, to make you the person He wants you to be.
Embracing God's Purpose for My Special Child is a very personal and prayerful memoir and "parenting guide" written by Malu Tiongson-Ortiz, a Filipino mom and advocate for Down syndrome in the Philippines. Her 3rd and youngest child, Clarissa, has Down syndrome and is 24 years old this year.
Malu Tiongson-Ortiz's religious (Catholic/ Christian) outlook about her experiences with raising Clarissa makes the perspectives in the book different from any other Down syndrome-related memoir I have read so far. She writes about her experience with receiving the diagnosis, various people she has connected with, financial challenges, health, homeschooling, adolescence, sexuality, and how we are stewards, not owners, of our children. It seems the target readers are Filipinos in the Philippines with references to local resources and the section about wills and legal matters only applies within the Philippines.
Reading a non-US based publication was very interesting for me because it offered glimpses and insights into life with Down syndrome in the Philippines. The awareness levels are somewhat different between the US and the Philippines. For example, it seems that first-people language is advocated here where it may not be (yet) in the Philippines. But that may also be due to language translation or pragmatics. Be forewarned that if you are sensitive and easily offended by terms like "Down syndrome daughter", no matter what the circumstance or context, then this book may not be a good reading choice.
Another example is in the local beliefs and misconceptions (many ridiculous ones) about Down syndrome. One mom thought that kids with Down syndrome were only "born to the rich". The author mentions that many believe Down syndrome is a result of an incestuous marriage or karma or punishment from God.
What is most inspiring is seeing how faith can mold beliefs and parenting styles. And while cultural, religious, and socioeconomic differences may provide varying landscapes for Down syndrome in each country, the common denominator that stands out is how we all want what is best for our child with Down syndrome and that we will go the extra mile, and then some.
Since the Philippines is the 3rd most populous Catholic country in the world, with 75.5 million Catholics in a little over 90 million total population (fact as of February 2011), it's just natural to expect this memoir to be mainly focused on the author's personal reflections and realizations of how God would want us to raise our children with Down syndrome. And needless to say, the author believes that "No special child is an accident".
There are fascinating, heart-wrenching, and inspiring stories of other children and families whom she had the pleasure of meeting in her journey. She writes about how her faith and character were molded throughout her journey, especially the most trying and difficult times. Her work shows an inner peace and strength in believing that God has a special purpose for each child with special needs in every aspect of life.
Drawing upon her own and others' experiences, she shares her personal reflections of God's purposes. "God gave us our special child...
"...to teach us to seek Him and pray to Him."
"...to mold our character."
"...to understand the value of life."
"...so we may learn to have hope."
"...to teach us to have compassion."
"...to teach us to choose better priorities."
"...to teach us to count our blessings."
The reference to bible verses may alienate non-Catholic/ non-Christian readers who are not familiar with bible content but perhaps they can still find appreciation, inspiration, and encouragement within the stories shared in the book. Or perhaps think of how it would relate to their own religions.
Overall, the author serves up a good dose of honesty and positivity. I enjoyed reading it.
Would you like to read it?
I couldn't find this book on amazon or other US online bookstore. If you are interested in borrowing this book from me, please leave a comment on this post or contact me.