Ten Strategies for Living Cheek by Jowl with Disability

Living cheek by jowl with disability is surprising similar to living in cramped quarters with the rellies. These 10 strategies can help in both situations.

These days, we’re living cheek by jowl at our house.

Four adults.
One very, very active toddler.
One dog.
In the dead of winter.
For six weeks.

We’re all crammed together in the first floor of a ranch house with less than half the square footage of our previous home. At this point, all four adults are counting the days (and sometimes the hours) until the basement apartment remodel is completed, so one very active toddler and his two parents, and one dog can occupy their new digs and enjoy the great outdoors come spring.

God’s granted me some “aha” moments during our cheek by jowl winter. The most surprising has been how similar this experience is to parenting a child with special needs. In both circumstances, relationships with the people you love most can begin to feel too close.

Too intense.
Too fraught with emotion.
Too fragile.
Too hard to maintain.

But without those relationships, life becomes empty.


That’s a dangerous state for anyone, but especially for parents of kids with disabilities special needs. Relationships are what sustain and encourage us, after all. Maintaining relationships is crucial, and in this cheek-by-jowl winter I’ve resurrected and implemented ten strategies I first learned when our son’s special needs felt too close and intense.

  1. Double check communications. Ask for and give clarification frequently rather than assuming you understood what someone said or that they understood what you said. Provide gentle reminders and ask others to remind you so things don’t fall through the cracks. My husband appreciates sticky note reminders placed where he can see and take them with him to work in the morning. I appreciate email reminders from family and friends about appointments or promises made to them.

To read the rest of this post, go to Key Ministry’s Special Needs Parenting blog.

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Living cheek by jowl with disability is surprising similar to living in cramped quarters with the rellies. These 10 strategies can help in both situations.


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Meet Jolene

Jolene Philo is a published author, speaker, wife, and mother of a son with special needs.



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