“Raising a child with special needs . . . is like preparing for a fun dream vacation to La Jolla, California,” begins writer, mother, grandmother and caregiver Diane Bailey Nutz—except that instead of arriving in La Jolla as planned, you get rerouted. The view, hotel and beach are all not what you expected, perhaps, but Nutz affirms that the ocean is still deep and beautiful.
Her book, Look IN Me: A Life Shaped by the Most Overlooked, takes parents and caregivers of those with special needs on a journey through uplifting stories about the children whose lives have impacted hers.
Nutz began working with special education students as a recently-divorced substitute teacher. When she remarried and found herself the mother of a large blended family, she knew that working from home would be a better option for her and her then six—and eventually eight—children.
While her new job brought financial prosperity to her home, more importantly, Nutz realized that her children “would learn compassion and acceptance for ‘unique’ individuals,” she says. “These special guests in our home became part of our family.”
Later, Nutz worked as a caregiver in the homes of special needs patients. She found the overlap between her spiritual life and that of the families she served to be important.
“I would choose to miss my own church meetings once in a while to allow the parents of unique individuals to attend their own ward for special occasions, such as baby blessings and giving lessons. They needed opportunity to replenish their spiritual strength,” she says.
Nutz’s book is a series of vignettes that bring to life the special people with whom she has shared her time. The pages are filled with stories that convey her warmth, humor and inspiration.
“I’ve witnessed miracles of healing and know that disabilities do not define an individual,” Nutz says. “As children of God, we have ALL been given special gifts.”
Coming to see these gifts hasn’t always been easy for Nutz. Juggling a large family and the needs of the special families with whom she works has been a challenge, but one with real blessings.
“My husband and I, as well as our children, have felt we’ve been in the presence of the noblest spirits while caring for unique people,” she says.
In the future, Nutz hopes to continue her service of special needs clients and further her writing by publishing a second book, this time a series of interviews aimed at new parents of children with Down syndrome.
A licensed Zumba instructor, Nutz feels the need to keep healthy and active as she continues to champion the cause of the disabled and celebrate her family, including sixteen grandchildren and her first great-grandchild.
Both respite work and Zumba will be put on hold for a while beginning this spring, when Nutz and her husband, Dan, serve a mission in Lubbock, Texas.