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Posted: December 28, 2019

A special needs adoption love story

One mother’s self-published book, launched just before the winter holiday season, offers a timely reminder of the power of love, family and diversity to overcome all challenges.

Raising Josh: A Special Needs Adoption Love Story is a tribute to the children who have enriched the lives of Judy and John Boyer over the years, and a testimony to the family’s love and commitment to those children.

Judy and John, already parents of four – including one child through adoption – adopted Josh in 1994. He was born with a genetic disorder, Down syndrome (or trisomy 21), and was the first of their adoptive children with significant special needs.

The couple would go on to adopt four more children over the next nine years. Three of those children would also be diagnosed with a range of special needs.

“These children have a home, they have a family, they have a name,” Judy said. “We are their parents no matter where they are, whether they live with us or not. They are forever ours.”

That reality was brought home poignantly last year when Josh had to be flown to Prince George and hospitalized. The attending physician shared with them how good it made him feel to know that Josh had a family, given that so many of the individuals he attends to with significant special needs have only the public trustee to advocate on their behalf.

Judy said she wrote the book because she was so amazed by Josh’s joy and spirit and character when he came into their family, she wanted to record every aspect of his development. Later, as Josh’s needs became increasingly complex, she continued to write with the hope that one day she could connect with and help other parents with children facing similar circumstances.

When Josh began walking at fourteen months of age, Judy considered him ahead of the curve, developmentally, for a child with Down syndrome. A bright and social child, he was good at problem-solving, but his behaviour began to change. By the time he was four years old, he had stopped making eye contact and sought out solitary, repetitive activities. He became harder to engage. Over the next several years he would be diagnosed with a number of neurological and developmental disorders, including late onset autism spectrum disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety disorder. Much later, around the age of 18, he had his first seizure.

Judy said, “I needed so badly to talk to someone else who might understand. It was also a process, coming to terms with the fact that the child we caught a glimpse of in the beginning was not the same child we were seeing develop in front of us.”

It took the Boyers until Josh was 14 years old to seek outside support in the form of respite. Judy encourages other families of children with special needs to get connected to respite early, if they qualify.

Josh, now 25 years old, joined about 40 other people at the local library in mid-December at the book launch. Judy said he delighted those who knew him by making his signature cricket-type noises, a sound he makes when he is relaxed. Despite Josh being non-verbal, Judy knows without a doubt that “he understands more than he can communicate.”

Judy spent more than 10 years writing the book she describes as “a labour of love for a child, now a man, who enriched our lives beyond what we could have imagined at the beginning of our journey together.

“Josh was more than worth it. We’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

She reminds other people caring for children with significant special needs to “never give up. Your child is worth it, and there are people out there who are willing to help.”

About 30,000 children and youth access provincial Children and Youth with Special Needs services.

Submitted by the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development

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