Mission's Family Support Network helps special needs families

Mission's Family Support Network is available for parents with children up 22 years old. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

A Madison County teenager with special needs and his parents have relied on a support network for years.

"He's come a long way in the past 15 1/2 years," Sharon Ball said of her son.

Ball remembers how she and her husband first met their adopted son James.

"We walked into the NICU. He was hooked up to every wire imaginable after having major heart surgery," she recalled. "All we saw was love and our son."

Over the next year, a diagnosis of cerebral palsy followed.

"Here is a mom and dad expecting their child to be born and they've got them playing football and heading off to college ... sometimes that path doesn't unfold that way," explained Sharon Muldowney, a Mission Family Support specialist.

Ball added, "There's a time when you kind of mourn and you draw to yourself and it's a while before you can reach out for that support from other folks."

In the years since, the Balls have relied on the Mission Family Support Network, for everything from doctor referrals to Social Security information, to dialogue with other families in similar situations.

"Having a child with special needs doesn't mean that there's a deficit in your life. It just means you're on a different journey," Muldowney reminded.

It is one that opens new doors in new ways at every turn.

The Balls now offer their support to new parents of children with special needs.

Mission Family Support Network is available for parents with children up 22 years old.

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