Looking Good on Paper: Seeing Special-Needs Families Beyond What They Post on Social Media

Perhaps it was in a movie or we overheard someone say this phrase, “We look good on paper, but….” We would say many of us in the community of special needs relate to that thought. We post family social media pictures that catch our young/or adult child with special needs doing something they enjoy. We share videos of pleasant and fun happenings that others might think things are always going to smoothly in our special needs world. Our Christmas card has all the right seasonal colors, outfits, and surroundings and few from our extended family, friends, and people from church would know the daily realities we face.


The reality is this: We leave the house with the best of intentions of how things should go, but come to the quick realization that it seldom goes as planned. We can take a family picture, line up with smiles on our faces, expect to get at least one good one and all the while waiting for the shoe to drop when someone doesn’t buy into the plan—which is almost always. We get dressed up for church and come into the building with smiles on our faces, because there is nothing like a grump to turn people away. But because we put on a good face, few ever inquire how we are really doing. WHY? Because we make it look easy—we have to. We do daily what we must do.

How refreshing it would be to have someone ask a question that isn’t always safe!

A safe question is:

  • “How is the family?”

  • “How are the kids?”

  • “How is work going?”

  • “Do you have any travel plans coming up?”

  • “What’s up?”

A challenging question is one that might require another question or even an action. We once had someone at church say, “I seldom ask people how they are because depending on their answer I might have to do something.” Well, that is sad. Isn’t that what church is supposed to be about? If folks from church want to challenge their own walk, their own thinking, and their own ability and willingness to serve, they might ask people who are caregivers in the special needs community questions people seldom,if ever, ask:

  • “How is it to travel with your child with special needs?”

  • “What kinds of things do you have to “think about” ahead of time when you go out with your family member with special needs?”

  • “How do the other children in your family handle challenges as it involves the one with special needs?”

  • “I love seeing your posts on social media, but I would imagine things are often more difficult than you can even share.”

As caregivers who’ve walked this journey for over thirty-seven years, we can probably count about ten people who’ve jumped in to ask those challenging questions of us. Because we’re seldom asked, we seldom just come out and share. Is there a way you can reach out to ask that difficult and challenging question that doesn’t pry but shows you truly and sincerely care? It would go from just looking good on paper to reaching into someone’s heart. Try it. You might like it. 

Dr. Joe and Cindi Ferrini are authors, speakers, and bloggers for several blogging sites on family and special needs. They speak nationally for FamilyLife Weekend To Remember Marriage Get-a-Ways, authoredUnexpected Journey – When Special Needs Change our Course,and have been interviewed on Focus on the Family, FamilyLife, and various other radio and television venues. Connect with them at www.cindiferrini.com and social media at: www.facebook.com/cindi.ferrini, www.facebook.com/UnexpectedJourney/, www.facebook.com/MyMarriageMatters/