Greetings from Sarah Sundin! Today I have the joy of interviewing popular author and speaker Jolene Philo. Raised in a home with a father with special needs—and then having a son with special needs—Jolene has a unique perspective and a heart for special needs families that she’s turned into a powerful ministry. Her latest book, co-authored with Dr. Gary Chapman, applies his famous 5 Love Languages concept to special needs families.
Tell us about your book, Sharing Love Abundantly in Special Needs Families: The 5 Love Languages for Parents Raising Children with Disabilities.
Dr. Chapman and I wrote Sharing Love Abundantly to equip every member of a special needs family–parents, typical siblings, and children with special needs–to do two things: discover their love languages and to use them effectively with one another. It also offers guidance for parents who want to share their child’s love languages with the educators, medical providers, and mental health providers who work with their kids.
What a fantastic idea! What surprised you the most during the research or writing of your book?
I interviewed forty caregiving families who were familiar with the love languages and have found ways to use them with their kids who had special needs. I wasn’t surprised by the creative accommodations families had macgyvered, because they do that all the time. But I was fascinated when several different parents said that through observation, they had identified their non-verbal child’s love language as words of affirmation.
How fascinating! What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope readers discover simple and inexpensive ways to implement the love languages in all their family relationships. I also hope the network of extended family members, friends, and professionals surrounding caregivers receive some insights about how to better support them and their children.
What was your greatest challenge in writing this book?
Dr. Chapman is a very busy man who travels a lot, so we had to pad our writing schedule in order to meet the publisher’s deadline. He is also gracious and easy to work with, and his administrative assistant is amazing. She was as committed to the book as we were and did all she could to bring things to his attention when he was in the office.
Sounds like a great team. What themes do you return to again and again in your writing?
One of the major themes is the need for caregivers to take time for themselves. Another is to assure parents that the seemly mundane, unnoticed, and endless care they give their children is good, holy, and eternal.
Why do you write about special needs families?
My father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1959 when he was 29. My sister was 5 at the time, I was 2, and my brother was not yet born. My mother, my siblings and I cared for Dad in our home for 15 years. In 1982, our first child was born with a life-threatening birth anomaly that required years of corrective surgeries. Also, I was a teacher with special education training. When I began writing, almost everything I wrote about parenting children with special needs or developing special needs ministries was accepted. I realized writing and speaking about this topic was the purpose God had for me from before I was born.
I love how this! What ministries are you involved in, and why?
My favorite ministry is Wonderfully Made Family Camp (WMFC) which serves 40 special needs families in central Iowa for a long weekend. The camp has something for everyone. We bring in national speakers for the parents, provide VBS-like programming for kids with special needs and their typical siblings, and open up the pool, climbing wall, zip line, giant swing, miniature golf course, and the horse to families. Every child with special needs has a one-on-one buddy during their waking hours. The planning board I’m part of raises $44,000 each year to fund the camp and recruits over 100 volunteers throughout the year.
Do you have a “day job” or a previous career? Does it influence what or how you write?
I was a public school educator for 25 years. Teaching 9 and 10 year-olds was wonderful training for what I do now. My students responded best to new concepts if I told them a story first, and I use the same technique while writing. Working with children also honed my ability to break information into understandable chunks and explain it clearly and concisely.
And you learn to do it in an engaging way as well. Jolene, please tell us about your next project.
I have begun research for a book about secondary trauma, stress, and compassion fatigue in caregiving parents. This is a huge issue in the caregiving community, as the response to the initial survey posted on my website confirmed. In one month almost 1,500 people completed it!
Oh my! It sounds like you found a huge need. I’m so glad you’re addressing it.
To learn more about Jolene’s books and her speaking, please visit Jolene’s website.
Writing for Him,