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A Conversation With My Brother, Dr. Richard Rosenberger

Hope for the Caregiver / Peter Rosenberger
The Truth Network Radio
November 24, 2019 6:00 pm

A Conversation With My Brother, Dr. Richard Rosenberger

Hope for the Caregiver / Peter Rosenberger

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November 24, 2019 6:00 pm

"I didn't even know what Cerebral Palsy was until we received the diagnosis for our daughter." - Dr. Richard Rosenberger

For this special edition of HOPE FOR THE CAREGIVER, I invited my brother to call in and share his vast journey as a caregiving father for 30+ years ...and as an educator.  Richard is the Superintendent for Anderson County School District #2 in Upstate South Carolina. 

In this interview he candidly shares his lengthy journey, mistakes, wisdom, and passion for education.  

Hope for the Caregiver is heard Sunday Evenings at 6 PM Eastern on Sirius XM Channel 131 (FAMILY TALK) and Saturday Mornings at 8 AM Eastern on American Family Radio.


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Welcome to the show for caregivers about caregivers hosted by a caregiver. This is Hope for the Caregiver.

And I am Peter Rosenberger. I am your host and this is the nation's number one show for the family caregiver. We're so glad that you're with us. Before we get to our special guest today, I want to take just a moment to talk about Thanksgiving and gratitude. It is a big part of our lives as caregivers and so many of us are not expressing that gratitude and it's a muscle we need to work in order for us to be in a better place. As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, I wanted just to touch base with you as a caregiver to communicate to you how important it is to foster that attitude of gratitude.

There are things that you're dealing with as a caregiver that are very unpleasant. It makes it hard to feel grateful, but there are a lot of things you can be grateful for and that's the place we'd like to start today. And the other thing, John, I wanted to address this for fellow caregivers and see if this resonates with you, but I think that a lot of times as caregivers we spend so much time trying to make it special for the other person at holiday time.

And we want to recapture something because this may be our last one. And so we want to do every little tiny tradition we possibly can to make them feel better, but then we leave ourselves out of the equation. It's really easy to do because we're so often in that mode, and rightly so, that we focus our attention in a direction that is very important.

And we're here to also say that there is another important direction and that is inward unto yourself and make sure it's special for you. Make one dish for yourself. I mean, everybody's got that one thing that we like at Thanksgiving.

And try to do that for yourself, too. John likes a turkey leg. My brother, lassur green peas. That's his vegetable of choice, and it's not even a vegetable. It's a legume. It's a legume, but it's green, and so therefore he equates it with a vegetable. But that's his thing. He likes to have lassur green peas.

It has to be lassur, in the silver can. It does. But too many caregivers will go around trying to recreate the holiday's past with a loved one because they're so afraid this may be the last one or they feel guilty, whatever. And we sacrifice our own peace of mind at the altar of nostalgia. And let me just say this. Write this down. Well, thank you. I just made that up, John. Write this down.

Nostalgia ain't everything it used to be. Ah, you stole that one. I stole it. That was grand larceny. I tripped every alarm to steal that one. I still have cops chasing me for that one. But it was such a great line. I loved that one. The nostalgia we try to recreate and live under and put ourselves in bondage under is not worth it to our own peace of mind.

Sometimes it's okay to create new memories, and I will give you an example. When Gracie had her car wreck, I did not know her at the time. And her family was traumatized, as you can imagine.

They came up from Florida. She was in Nashville, Tennessee. And they're in a hospital they don't know.

They're in a city that they really don't know. And they don't know if their daughter's going to live. And she was unconscious for three weeks after a wreck. She got hurt on November 18th. Her grandmother, we called her Mimi, she understood that there were some things that were worth celebrating, remembering, and incorporating even in those kinds of traumatic moments. And they sat around and had Thanksgiving dinner in the hospital cafeteria, which is not cool, by the way.

I've done that myself. It's not cool. And Mimi pulled out one of those fold-out paper turkeys. You know what I'm talking about with the tail feathers that fold?

Like the fan? Yeah, yeah. And she pulled that out and put it on the centerpiece of the table so they could have some semblance of Thanksgiving on their family, even though their family member, Gracie, was fighting for her life, literally, just one floor up above them. You know, that was a meaningful Thanksgiving. That was a meaningful gesture. It didn't stop the tears. It didn't stop the heartache.

It just reintegrated some sense of normalcy into the craziness. Find something to be grateful for and make it your own. And that's what Thanksgiving should be about, is just being grateful. We're just grateful.

And even in the most dire of circumstances, there are things that you can be grateful for. I go back to the story of Corrie Ten Boom and her sister, Betsy. And they were in prison in Ravensbruck in the concentration camp during the Holocaust. There were so many fleas in their hut that they were imprisoned in. And Corrie just bitterly snapped out. And she was 50 years old when she went to the concentration camp.

She was not a young woman. And they were dirty and everything else. And the fleas were around. And Betsy told Corrie, she said, we're going to be thankful for the fleas. And Corrie's like, you've got to be out of your mind.

I mean, I'm paraphrasing. I don't think she used that phrase back in World War II. She was Dutch. And I don't think that translates to the Dutch.

But the equivalent of, are you nuts? But she said, Scripture says, rejoice in all things. Give thanks in all things. And she said, okay. And she just kind of sighed and did it, you know, because her sister Betsy said, this is what we ought to do. Well, it turns out because there's so many fleas that the guards would stay away from that hut and leave them alone. These women that were there clustered together were able to care for each other, minister to each other, have Bible studies together and out of the purview of the Nazi guards because they didn't want to get around the fleas.

And that's the way they looked at it. I thought, okay, if you can learn to give thanks, if Betsy Timboon could learn to give thanks for fleas in a concentration camp hut, then I can learn to be grateful where I am too. As an epilogue to that story, just to let you know, Corrie Timboon, after she was released from the concentration camp, went on to lead my wife, Gracie, to the Lord when Gracie was just a little girl. How about that?

All right. I want to transition to our special guest today. I like to have interesting guests on the show to talk about some things. This is my brother, Richard, Dr. Richard Rosenberger. And he's an educator, a superintendent of a school district in South Carolina, where we're both from.

And he is also a caregiving dad. I wanted to pick his brain a little bit and talk about some things with special needs children, with their schooling, and also with kids who are in school who have special needs in their families or parents that are having sicknesses and so forth, and just some things he's learned and some insights along the way. So, Richard, I'm glad you're with us. How are you doing? I'm doing well, thank you. Now, you're over the fact that I'm still mom and dad's favorite, right?

That's not troubling me. No, I'm done. And right now, you're the only one that knows that.

Certainly the only one that believes it. Tell us a little bit about your story with your daughter. Kelsey is 31 years old, and Kelsey was born with cerebral palsy. It's not something we volunteered for and signed up, but within a few months after her birth, we realized that she wasn't doing things that her older brother was doing.

It was a journey that we really had no roadmap for, but it was one that we've enjoyed every bit of it. She's very special to us, but she has some severe needs. She does not walk. She has very few words, and mentally, she's probably about two years old. I know this because I've watched you, but I want you to just take a moment to articulate the type of journey this has been for you and your family.

You have an older son, but then you guys went through this with Kelsey, and then you've had a younger son. And that had to be a bit fearful, I would think. Absolutely. We really had no roadmap. How do you raise a child with cerebral palsy with disabilities? And the fear of what's our next step, though, when we're going to be going to a hospital because of some major seizures. What is the cost that we don't know that's going to hit us? Right now, every time we buy a vehicle for her, we buy two vehicles because it has to be handicap accessible, usually having a lift in there.

That's buying two cars. And so those are those unknowns that we have to tackle. And are we ready to try doing all this and have another child and possibly have one with disabilities?

That's a huge fear, but the one thing we did find and we've discovered through this entire process that to build in some normalcy as a family is just as important as anything else. And we wanted to continue with our family, and we've been blessed with three children. They all have their unique characters and character traits, and you're laughing because you know them. They are characters.

But they've all blessed us in different ways. How have you shepherded them along, your sons along, to know that this is an extra responsibility that's just going to be a part of their life? I mean, those had to have been some challenging conversations at times and probably with some tears and so forth. What's that been like for them and you guys? And you just sitting down as their dad saying to your sons, OK, look, you're going to have to grow up a little bit faster than you probably would have wanted to or that we would have liked for you to.

Well, I didn't have to have that conversation. I think we model what we expect out of our children, and it became natural. They know they have to get out there and hold the doors open for not only for their mom, but for anybody that's pushing that wheelchair in. They know that there's going to be some waiting time as we have to take care of their sister beforehand.

So it wasn't something we've got to sit down and have a conversation. It was just as you would any time of parenting, there's that expectation that your children will pick up what you're doing. It's just theirs is a little bit different than, I guess, what you may call the normal family if there is one. They had to understand our family does things different. And that can be a challenge, and it can be sometimes a painful challenge because that means our family cannot do certain things that other families can do. But we learn to do what we can, and I don't think either one of our boys would have any regrets as far as having a sister with a disability. They're very proud of her, and honestly, they don't know a life without her.

So for them to sit there and feel like they've been cheated or disadvantaged because of their role of helping raise a sister with cerebral palsy, that doesn't exist. How about you and Kim, your wife, when you guys sometimes need to step back for a moment and just take a break just for the two of you to have your relationship, how do you deal with that in a way that you're not sitting there just wringing your hands and wondering what's going on with Kelsey? Is she okay?

Is she okay? That you can actually just kind of go out to dinner, just the two of you sometimes, or get away the two of you. How does that factor in in those conversations, and how have you learned to make peace with the fact that maybe Kelsey's not with you, but that's okay?

She's safe, she's cared for, and you guys can enjoy the moment without feeling guilty or frenetic or things such as that. We didn't do that very well. An incredible strain. Granted, we had two sets of parents willing to do almost anything in those early years to help provide the time, assistance, take care of Kelsey. But as she became bigger and more dependent on our strength, my strength, because that means transporting her, physically transporting her, picking her up. We sometimes kind of pulled ourselves in, and that meant we cheated ourselves out of taking advantage of time to be just as a husband and wife.

That's an extremely dangerous position to be in. I have a lot of regrets. Was there a definitive time when that switch flipped? When you said, you know what, we're going to do something different, or did it just kind of evolve? Well, I'm not sure there was.

I think it somewhat evolved, maybe because we became more conscientious of her needs, maybe become more, I hate to use the word, pride, or not willing to allow others to step in. I was probably the worst of that, but I'm sorry, this is my daughter. Again, I didn't volunteer for this job, but I was given the job and by God, I'm going to do the job, and no one can do the job as well as I can. That's not a good attitude to have. Yes, I can sit there and say, I've taken care of my daughter, but did I truly take care of my family? That's something we struggled with for many years.

I know many parents will do that. I say that to myself and to my fellow caregivers, is that there's some point where we have to get to the place where we said, it's not what's best for that individual, it's what's best for the unit. How does that resonate with you?

I agree, and I'm not sure I always had the plan to get there. Again, sometimes I had to put my personal feelings away to allow that to happen, but I didn't do a very good job. You know what, I'm not going to leave Kelsey here when I know I can take her here with me and be better, but that meant here with me, I'm sharing my time with my wife with my daughter. Most people see us now that we're inseparable, that we still go with three. However, maybe wisdom took over, maybe health, a bad back took over, and now I have my sons, adult sons, and an incredible daughter-in-law that are willing to step in and say, hey, we got this.

That's part of that first question, how did it affect the siblings? Well, the siblings know they have a role. I have incredible trust with them that they can step in and we can leave, and they're doing that, and what a blessing that's been. So our marriage is a whole lot better when I'm able to relinquish that responsibility, but I can assure you I'm not the only one out there.

That's tough to relinquish that responsibility. I think I've learned over the years that for caregivers, not only is it important we ask for help, but we also learn how to receive that help. It is very difficult for people to know how to help us, and we're so guarded with it. For me, it's been a hard lesson, and I had people come to me that I didn't even solicit help from, but they somehow, whether it's the Holy Spirit, I don't know, but somehow they knew how to speak a moment in that particular moment, something that would be very helpful to me. I would imagine you've seen people along the way that surprised you with help that was very specific and very timely that you didn't even ask for, but then you had to receive it. Have you had those kinds of moments? Yeah, I know we've had those moments.

I'm not sure I've been the best at receiving them. Why not? Why not allow someone else to take care of her for this time? Why not allow her to stay overnight here?

Why not someone else stay home and feed her or bathe her? Because in my mind, I'm sorry as much as I poured into my daughter. You cannot do it as good as I can, and that's a tough one to let go. I get that, and I think the natural tendency for us as caregivers to not want to relinquish that because we're afraid that they're going to screw it up, and then we'll have to come and clean it up. That's exactly what I feel, and that's tough. Maybe wisdom, maybe bad backs has said, Richard, it's time for you to relinquish that. What I've done, nothing's gone wrong.

Nothing bad happened. I could. I'm going to deal with that, but it hasn't happened, and it's blessed my marriage as well as my family. Well, I used to feel obligated to spend 24-7 at the hospital with Grace, and there's a point where I just couldn't do it. I just physically couldn't, and as soon as I would leave, I would get a phone call or something would happen and so forth, and I had to learn to accept that things are going to happen, period.

But if I go down, there was a switch that flipped with me, and I would love to say I came up with this on my own, but I didn't. But a friend told me and said, look, she may not make it, but you have to. And we've faced death so many times. You guys have faced death with Kelsey many times. I've faced death with Gracie many times, and there is that point where we realize, okay, that we are in very dangerous places physically with our loved ones, but we're also in dangerous places with ourselves as caregivers that we could stroke out very easily. The stress on us is relentless.

Your back is trashed. Your finances, all these kinds of things, and there is that point where maybe it is. Maybe we just have to exhaust ourselves and get to the point where we just cry uncle.

Well, yes, but I also love your analogy you've used about on the airplane with the oxygen mask dropping down. You don't put it on the person that needs it. You put it on yourself first, because if I cannot take care of myself, then it doesn't matter what's happened to her. And I've got to be able to take care of myself, and that doesn't mean just my health.

I mean, it's going to be my mental health, my emotional health, and there's a lot of power and a lot of wisdom in that. How did your theology change through this? I mean, that's a loaded question, I know, but I would imagine it did. I don't know if it did.

I really don't know. Well, mine sure did, but don't tell Dad. Yeah, I watched your change quite a bit there. Our Dad's a minister, by the way. You know, there was no anger at God for this. There was a lot of questions, and I had a lot of suggestions for God, but there really wasn't any anger that, why did you pick me?

I think it's one of those things that, if I can go up to that bird's eye view and say, looking down from God, he chose me, he chose my wife, because he needed somewhere to put Kelsey. And if I keep that in focus, then I'm doing his will, and I'm honoring him by what I've done. And that doesn't mean it's been easy, and there's been challenges for years, but I've got to realize there's an honor that God put me in this position, and I accept that honor. You're an educator. Education's been a part of your life.

You have your doctorate in it, and you have a real passion for educating, not just children, but the families that are involved. Can you point to specific things that your journey as a special needs dad has done that has given you a different perspective now when you look at families coming into your schools and kids coming into your hallways? How has that changed you as an educator? Well, I can tell you right now that if I'm having a rough day, all I have to do is go sit in a special education class, a self-contained special education class, and I can realize I'm not having a bad day. I've got it so much better than some of these kids who still come to school with smiles on their face and just enjoy being there, because there was a time, 40, I think about 50 years ago now, that they did not have that opportunity, and we would have been told Kelsey needs to go to an institution, but now she has a chance to be part of public education as well as all these other students.

It is given me a great perspective. I've got to be careful sometimes because people acknowledge me as I'm the parent here, but I'm also an educator, even an administrator, and that maybe can skew that way people see us or see special needs. But I'll give you one example that really caught me off guard as a parent was very upset with the school because she wanted the daughter to stay a little bit longer. I think that allowed them to go to 21. And the schools were not able to provide any more.

She's about to age out. But the reality of it was the parent was so upset and fearful because she was going to lose her job because now she was going to have to take care of that daughter full time. And see, sometimes we miss that. We miss that piece that when parents come in there, some of them are already facing the denial, wait, my child has special needs?

My child has a disability? So there's some anger, some frustration, some unknowns before they even enter school, and then they're hit with these IEPs and tons of paperwork and sign here and do this. And that's a challenge.

Sometimes that puts people on the defense, and it doesn't have to be. And one of the things that we try to focus more on than anything else is we're not going to be able to cure the problem, but we can build a relationship. And if I was to tell parents that are facing those special needs crises or issues or disabilities, I'm not sure what's going to happen at school.

I can assure one thing. People don't go into special education to be a teacher just because it's money. There's too much work. They go there for a passion. So we have incredible teachers teaching special education in all of our programs too, but special education requires a passionate teacher. And knowing that, if the parent would make that effort to build that relationship with the teacher, I think there will be some of that satisfaction going through the education process.

And you have to start over sometimes every year. There's a different teacher maybe. But that's the only thing you can't control.

I can't control what happens out there. For my daughter's case, how did she do at school? I have no idea. She cannot tell me. And right now, even in adult daycare, we have a little form that they sign, Did she go to the bathroom? Did she eat her meals? Well, that seems pretty trivial, but not to us. What if she didn't eat anything at school all day long?

Or what if she didn't go to the bathroom all day long? That's huge to us. There's a concern. And when parents cannot get that communication, that feedback from their child, it leaves them somewhat on the defense. And so the only thing is, we've got to have that relationship. And our teachers are so good at providing that, but sometimes there's a little butting head because there's a fear that they're going to be attacked by parents, and the parents are fearful that they're not getting the information. But I want to unpack that a bit.

We've got to take a quick break. This is a real issue for so many families as they take those initial steps into the public school system with special needs children. I'm talking with my brother, Dr. Richard Rosenberger, who is a caregiving dad for special needs daughter.

But he's also an educator. And we're just we're going to unpack this a little bit more. So don't go away. This is Hope for the Caregiver. This is Peter Rosenberger. We'll be right back. He will be strong to deliver me safe. And the joy of the Lord is my strength. Welcome back to Hope for the Caregiver.

This is Peter Rosenberger. This is the show that is for you, the family caregiver. It is hosted by caregivers for caregivers.

We speak fluent caregiver here. How are you holding up? How are you doing? And the show is brought to you by Standing with Hope. Standing with Hope is the ministry that my wife founded many years ago when she wanted to reach out to her fellow amputees. Once she lost her leg and then she lost her remaining leg.

And she said, Oh, my goodness, you know, what am I going to do here? And she had this vision for putting legs on her fellow amputees. And so that's what we've been doing in West Africa since 2005. And then we expanded it to this ministry to the family caregivers for the wounded and those who care for them. And we will recycle prosthetic limbs.

We'll take the parts. They go to a prison in Tennessee run by friends at CoreCivic. They administer many prisons around the country, many correctional facilities.

And this is one of their faith based programs that they have. And prisoners will volunteer. These inmates volunteer to disassemble prosthetic limbs so that we can reuse the parts. And then we ship that along with purchase material over to West Africa. And we build and maintain limbs over there for their own people and help them do that. And so that's what we do. Go take a look and see how you can be a part of this. We're talking with my brother, Dr. Richard Rosenberger. He is an educator for, gosh, how long have you been doing this, Richard? 35 years? This is my, I'm finishing my 37th year. And you've reached kind of this really high apex of being a district superintendent.

That's not an apex. That's sometimes at the bottom there. Well, sometimes. But you're in the position where you can influence a great many students and teachers.

And I'm grateful that you're able to do that. And you bring your 30 plus years as a caregiving dad for a daughter with cerebral palsy and severe developmental issues to the table. Before the break, you were talking about families as they kind of take those first tentative steps. And I would imagine those are scary steps for any family with special needs children. To take them into public school.

To try to put them in that environment. And yet it can be the biggest blessing for those families because you do have, like you said, special needs teachers are not, you don't get into it for the money and the prestige. It is work. And it is a calling.

It's a passion. And what would you say to those families who are taking those, what are some tips that they could incorporate as they take those first steps? Or if they have to meet with a new teacher next year, that kind of thing, as they build those relationships with those teachers. What are some tips that you would say to those families? Well, I think the first thing is what you just said, build a relationship. Meet that teacher.

Provide your phone number, email. Be readily available if they need you. There's no such thing as too much communication involved. And I think that just puts both the parent and the teacher at ease. Sometimes you say, well, this is an overbearing parent.

Yeah, it may come across that way, but I'm sorry, this is my child. And I will tell every parent that we have in here, do not worry about defending yourself as you're the best expert for your child. You may not have the terminology, you may not have the know-it-all for special education needs or IEPs, but you are the expert in there. And so there's nothing wrong with wanting to share that and make sure that that team, the IEP team or the teachers that you're going to work with have that information. I also encourage parents to become as knowledgeable as possible about special education practice.

And that's a challenge in itself, too, because it's complicated. But I think the more educated we get about our child and what the needs they're going to have, the better we can help serve them as well. I'd use a term called caregiver authority, that we have caregiver authority because we do know our loved ones.

And whereas like when all the doctors that have treated Gracie, I don't know the science of a lot of these things, but I know Gracie. And I'm with her 24-7, they're with her, you know, 15 minutes a month kind of thing. And I think that these parents, that's a good word for these parents to not be afraid to wield that caregiver authority. They don't have to know all the processes of education, but they can build that team relationship with that special needs teacher. They're going to be with a special needs teacher, you know, if a child's diagnosed with this early, you know, for many years, a dozen years or more.

And so those relationships are important. If you could, this is hypothetical, but I'm sure you've had this thought. If you could think, if you could have a sit down with a conversation with, for example, the Secretary of Education on a national level with these things, and I know you've done things on a national level with some folks and been awarded and recognized and so forth. But if you just have a one-on-one conversation with the Secretary of Education of your state or the country about this issue with special needs children and their families, what are some of the things that you would love for them to know? Well, that's kind of a loaded question, isn't it? I know, but that's all right.

I figured you're up to it. Well, let me, sometimes there's, even at that level, there may not be awareness of what is special education about. And when the public law on 94-142 came in, I think 1974, 1975, it was designed to allow special needs people or all people to be involved in the public education. Before that, we didn't have that opportunity.

And now that's there. Well, unfortunately, over the 80s and 90s, there became a push that, oh, we've got to get this kid in special education, and we became more, I guess, direct as far as trying to get those kids out of our classes. So those kids did not disrupt or slow our other classes down.

And that was a very unfortunate time. But that's where special education grew, and it became, again, way back, it was hopefully those with some severe issues that would be considered self-contained. But now it's all in, whether it's speech pathology or kids with speech needs.

And I think we've changed it now. The momentum has finally moved back this, wait, we're doing students a disservice when we're separating them. And the best thing we can do is have inclusion where our kids aren't in the regular education classes or they're doing co-teaching practices. That's where you don't even know the difference between a special ed teacher and a general ed teacher because that's important.

So to talk to the Secretary of Education, I don't know if there's anything that I would be demanding. It's just more enlightening that this is important. This is the direction to go that our job is to serve all our kids in the regular classroom as much as possible, the least restrictive environment.

And that's huge. The only thing that I would probably caution the Secretary of Education about is the concern where that money now is starting to follow kids to different places. And there's an example in Colorado, a court case that was just decided last year where a parent sued the public school because they felt like their special needs child, their needs were not being adequately met. And the courts found for them and awarded them money to go to a private school. I mean, I get that as a parent that you want what's absolutely best, but I'm not sure that's always the best for that student because that doesn't guarantee they're even going to have an IEP there.

So I think we've kind of convoluted our education system or process that it's taken away from the incredible public education for special needs children. What is an IEP, by the way? An Individualized Education Plan. Every kid that's diagnosed with special education has an IEP, and that includes a team that will... Oh, it's IEP. IEP. Yeah, I thought you said IEP. Your South Carolina accent really throws me, Richard. It's not even South Carolina. It's part of the whole accent.

People have to use subtitles when I go on television. They go back, though, that our Secretary of Education is a very strong proponent of charter schools and private schools. That's part of school choice, but we have a great offering for special education in our public education arena, and that's important. What about the impact it makes for students who don't have special needs to be able to engage with the special needs community in the school situation? What are some of the positive benefits that people may be missing out on how this can affect students in a healthy way for them emotionally and even career-wise as they look ahead to some things? Well, I think our students today are so much better prepared and better suited to work with students with special needs. We just this morning had what we call a fall games, where it's kind of a small special Olympics, but it's not just for those students. It's for our students that work as mentors and tutors that come out there and work with them, and it becomes a natural flow.

It's easy. Our kids that can go in now, once they've graduated, they've had an opportunity to work with people that don't have the same skills, that have some disadvantages. And I think they're better prepared to go out into the workforce or go into their next career because they've done so. We didn't have that opportunity growing up. Again, if you had someone with some special needs, they were kind of hidden from others.

And what a disservice it did to us because we were not blessed by being around those that were a little bit disadvantaged. I think it does foster a deeper sense of compassion, awareness of some things. And I've maintained for some time that children that are able-bodied and able-minded are better served by engaging with special needs families and children because it broadens them and it helps them. I think it just kind of expands their heart a bit more, and I don't think anybody's ever hurt by that. I don't think anybody's hurt by going on the mission field because of what it can do for you and grow you as an individual.

So I'm glad to see these things going on. If you have a student, and by the way, we're talking with my brother, Dr. Richard Rosenberger, a caregiver for more than 30-something years with his daughter who has special needs, developmental disabilities, and severe physical disabilities as well. And he's also a superintendent of a school district in South Carolina where we're both originally from. But if you have students, let me switch gears just a little bit, but if you have students who have siblings or parents with disabilities, what are some things that you might want to talk about with them? I know that you had a situation that was at one point in your career where there was a mother that was dying and she wasn't going to make it to her daughter's graduation.

So you had an early commencement so that mother could participate in that. Those have got to be very, very moving, emotional, and tough situations, but important ones. And it reflects a heart of an educator that goes beyond the textbook. Talk about things such as that and families that are dealing with it. Because I come from the mentality that, and I tell this to a lot of pastors who look out at your pews, those pews are filled with people living in quiet desperation.

And they're not going to necessarily say anything. And you've got so many kids coming into your classrooms all through your district who are walking in, coming out of hard realities. Parents that are struggling with mental illness, addiction, alcoholism, whatever, it doesn't matter.

Whatever the impairment, physical disabilities or whatever, it doesn't matter what the impairment is. There's always a family member around, a caregiver around that's being affected by that as well. And these kids are coming to school and they don't know how to process that. They don't know how to process an alcoholic dad. They don't know how to process a mother with mental illness or things such as that. What are some things that you would love to be able to incorporate and that you do incorporate, and how do you watch for those things?

Well, I'm not sure I can totally differentiate between whether it's the parents that have a disability or the sibling. Because I think the one big focus that that family is going to have is, will that place, will those people be able to accommodate my needs? And I think our job is to continue to make sure to reach out to those folks.

Yes, we want you to come up. Because many people, whether it's real or not, have a perception that there won't be parking, there won't be restrooms that can accommodate me. And honestly, that's why you don't see a whole lot of families with special needs in the family attend church. Because there's a big fear that that church will not be able to accommodate my needs, my child's, my parents' needs. You guys have run into that yourselves. Absolutely, absolutely.

Churches that have lots of stairs. Absolutely. Well, we made the decision, it doesn't matter, we'll make it work and we can work as a team to do that. But think about the number of people out there that because of their child, because of a sibling, because of a parent, I'm not going to that function because I won't be accommodated. I can't go into that arena because my child may make noise and people will look at me funny. You know, I don't know if it's all real.

Most of it may be perception, but perception is real to them. And I think our job is to continue to reach out. No, no, no, you're invited. This is where you are supposed to be. You know, the parents will call me up and I said, they can't come up here and meet with me or meet with staff because of their disability. Well, you know what, then it's our job to meet with them, wherever that may be or however that may be. And I think public education does a great job of reaching out to them, but all of us need to do a better job. I mean, if your parking becomes an issue and you're trying to go to an event and there's no parking spot within a couple hundred yards of where you're going, you go to that event. And that's just a simple one, but it's very real to some people.

It can be real to us. We'll close out this time here and you've been really great to spend the time with me on this. I thought you were going to say I've been really great. You've just been really great, Richard. I'm obligated by the family to say that to you.

Thank you. Richard and I have, we have a large family. There's five boys, our little sister, and it's a loud, boisterous group who likes to josh each other around.

Richard and I are, we share a common bond that we both have logged in more than three decades as caregivers. And that's a, it's an interesting journey that changes you and it changes the way you look at life. It changes the way you look at relationships and everything else. But there are families that are just now stepping into this and they're, they don't, they really don't want to. Some of them are listening to this show or the podcast of this show for the, you know, they've never heard anybody talk like this before. And one of the reasons I do this show is to take community to them because I know what that isolation can do to people.

I know what it did to me. And, but, you know, spend just a few moments, take off your educator hat for a minute and just put on the dad hat of being a caregiver for a long time. And these families that are just now getting the diagnosis of a special needs child, of a kid with autism or, you know, whatever, spina bifida.

There's so many different, cerebral palsies, there's so many different things going on out there. What are some things that you would like to share with them of just some ways they can get to safety and what safety looks like for them? Well, I think better than we've ever had it before, there are so many resources out there for folks. You know, whether, I can't begin, whether it's cerebral palsy or any kind of disability, there's resources, whether it's people or financial resources or just other kind of assistance.

And that's our job is to kind of make that connection for people. You use the word isolation. Isolation is very dangerous. But we tend to do that because we feel like no one really can help us and no one knows what we're going through.

I played the tough guy and I can take care of him by myself. But my wife was wonderful as far as she sought out those resources. And they're there. Again, whether it's financial, physical assistance or you name it.

Never before we have it because our country is so attuned to some of our special needs we are facing, whether it's even for senior parents or for a disability and a child. And I think that's the best thing we can say. You've got to ask the right questions or you've got to ask the right people, but you shouldn't have to walk this thing alone. That's a dangerous place to be.

It is. And I've done that. And this is why I'm so passionate about this show because I'm the crash test dummy of caregivers. I mean, I've had ample time to make pretty much every kind of mistake you can make. And you didn't make a fraction of the mistakes I made and I'm really kind of torqued about it.

I'm not saying that mom and dad looked at you any better. I think you just did. But even in the mistakes, OK, all right, I've made them. And what can I learn from this? What can I do about this?

And how do I deal with the situation from here on out? I cringe over those things, but at the same time, I'm grateful. I heard a phrase of the day and I've kind of incorporated my life. I like the way I write now. I like the way I speak about these things. I like the way I play the piano. I hate the way I got here.

Does that resonate with you? Well, you did. Like you said, you didn't fail quite as much as I have. And I hate to use the word hate the way I got here. But I wish someone would have showed me a better map. And that partly is my fault. I did not ask for a better map because there probably were out there, you know, maybe pride took over.

But I'll just come back to that comment again. There are people, there is a system out there. Sometimes we've got to let down our guard a little bit and allow them to enter into our world. And that's just, I know that's difficult. It takes a leap of faith, doesn't it? It does. We don't go over to people's houses.

Because I'm not sure a wheelchair will get into their houses or they may have steps that have to navigate. And, you know, but I can ask. And sometimes that's that leap of faith by me asking.

I can find that out beforehand. And sometimes we just kind of pull ourselves inside, isolate, like you said. And that's not where we need to be. It doesn't serve us.

It doesn't serve the person that we're trying to care for well. All right. I'm going to ask you one more personal question then I'll wrap this up.

I've asked you this many times. Are you ever going to write about this? Write a book about this? I think when I have time maybe I'll put some thoughts down. I have occasion to put some of it on paper.

But right now it's just a little more convenient. I enjoy talking about my daughter. And I'm very proud of her. I know you are. And you're always welcome on this show to talk about it. Because when things come up I want you to come back and be a resource for folks who are really struggling. I mean I know. I've gotten the calls.

And people are floundering. They take on resentment when people treat them poorly when they try to go out and have a normal life. I had one lady.

This will resonate with you. I had one lady that took her kid with autism to get a haircut. And we take that for granted. Getting a haircut. And I know Kelsey doesn't like to have her hair brushed. But this kid had a meltdown. And think about sharp scissors coming near your head when you have autism. I mean that's got to be pretty frightening to that kid. The kid just had a meltdown and the parent told me.

She said I just wanted to have a t-shirt on that says don't judge. It's autism. And that hurts. You know that because she's struggling so much just to get through the haircut with the child.

That's the reality for special needs families so many times. Last question. Because I keep having more things firing at me thinking I want to know this. When you go out and people stare and things such as that.

Because I know they do. How have you learned to handle that? How have your boys learned to handle that? Well I hope they're not just staring at me. I always tell that to Gracie. She said they're staring.

I say Gracie I'm a well-known person now. You're just going to have to deal with it. And then that's when she pops me on the side of the head. Exactly. And I think our job is to educate. And I've always asked our boys to make any comments or did anybody make comments. And I love my young son's comments. Someone said I'm sorry for you about your sister. Why are you sorry for my sister? Why are you apologizing because my sister has cerebral palsy?

He was honored to have a sister that has cerebral palsy. And I think the more we get out there in public we can do that. Yes we don't look and act like you.

But you know what? You don't look and act like us. You guys don't get offended if people ask do you?

Absolutely not. I think that's one of the best things we can do is share. I don't think I knew what cerebral palsy was the day before we were diagnosed with cerebral palsy. And when you think about that what is that? Well that's cerebral. The brain. The cerebral. The brain. Palsy. It's paralysis. Brain paralysis. I did not know that.

I just didn't even think about it until we had it. But how many other people were out there going what is cerebral palsy? Can we catch this from Kelsey? Well I've had people do that with Gracie when they were out here. You cannot catch me with amputation from somebody.

No. Amputation is contagious. But we laugh about that. But there's a little bit of reality in it.

If I get too close is that going to rub off on me? And the more we can sit there and help educate people saying this is where we are. This is what we're doing.

This is what happened. We're not ashamed of it. We're very proud of Kelsey. And we're proud of how we and she handle her disability. And I think that's the best thing we can do. I think I need to stop there.

I don't think I can say anything to add to that. Richard except thank you for coming on and taking the time on the show. And I'll be sure to play this for mom and dad so they'll like me as much as you.

And you will get my bill from me a little bit later. This is my brother Richard Rosenberger. Dr. Richard Rosenberger educator and you know what? A long time caregiving dad who continues to inspire me. And I appreciate it very much. This is Hope for the Caregiver. You can see more at Thank you for spending a little time with us and trusting us with your heart with your situation. Healthy caregivers make better caregivers. Let's be healthy together. We'll see you next week. Hi this is Jeff Foxworthy. 65 million Americans serve as a caregiver for a sick or disabled love life. If you're one of them then listen to my friend Peter Rosenberger's show. He's got redneck tendencies but he's really good at what he does.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-23 01:50:52 / 2024-01-23 02:10:33 / 20

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