Lindsay Ricks lives in Oakton, Virginia, with her husband, three boys and one girl. When she found out that her second son, William, was diagnosed with Down syndrome and autism, her life changed, for the better. Through raising her son, she has experienced growth outside of her comfort zone, a greater understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and increased love and compassion for others. In this week's episode of All In, Ricks shares what her experience of parenting William has taught her as well as how it has given her increased empathy for others.
Read an excerpt from their conversation below or click here to listen to the whole episode. You can also read a full transcript of the interview here.
Note: This article has been edited for clarity and length.
Morgan Jones: So then for someone, Lindsay, that does have a child with special needs, and let's say there's someone that just had this baby and the baby has special needs and they're dealing with all those emotions that you talked about earlier. What would be your advice to someone in that situation?
Lindsay Ricks: My advice, it's kind of a President Hinckley advice, he says, "Every new convert should have a friend, a calling, and to be nurtured by the good word of God." And I think that everybody that is in this situation, they need a friend. They don't have to be someone with the same special needs or special needs at all. It could be their husband, it could be somebody else, but you need a friend. You need a calling and not necessarily a calling in the ward, which it could be, but a project or something that gets you out of the day-to-day rigors of the stress and the all-consuming issues that you have. It's nice to kind of come up for air and have a productive distraction. And then the nurturing of the good word of God is the most important. My text was the Book of Mormon, and I feel like the Book of Mormon helped me navigate this special needs world more than any other book. And it's because it's brought me closer to Heavenly Father. Everyone's situation is so different, and so you have to get it from the source. You have to get the answers from the source. I think for me, and understanding the Atonement, it's so comforting to know that the Savior has felt what I feel, especially since I don't know anybody else in my situation. But I think the power that comes from knowing that He felt what I feel and He paid for all of that is that He also was healed from it, and so He knows perfectly the steps to take to be able to be healed. So that has kind of created this magnetic force that I feel towards the Savior in wanting to know, "How do I get through this?" "How can I find contentment in the things that have been allotted to me?" Because He knows, and so understanding that has been probably the greatest gift that I've received—is being able to need the Savior more than I ever have before.
Morgan Jones: Lindsay, how has William blessed you and your family? And why do you think that children with special needs are a blessing?
Lindsay Ricks: So, it goes back to what you were talking about in John 9, how the disciples came to Jesus, and they saw this blind man and they said, "Who sinned? This man or his parents?" And Jesus says, "Neither," but the part that I love is, he's blind so that the works of God can be made manifest. So I think, how cool is it that I get to be part of that, in these latter-days, to show the world that there are so many wonderful things about Him.
These issues and struggles that I've had, they've—in a totally roundabout, weird way—have brought me so much more joy because I appreciate so much more. I don't know if that makes sense. But I had this lady—one Saturday, my husband and I, we took our kids to this gym that is specific for kids that have autism. And there's this banner on the side of the wall that says something like, "This is a place where you can have fun and you never have to apologize for being who you are." And there was this mom there with a son who had autism, and I was there with our brand new baby. I mean, she was four months old. And the son came up and just scratched Caroline in her face, and she started crying. And I remember seeing this mother, and she just lost it. She was devastated and she just felt so bad that her son had just done this to Caroline. And I sat there and I just started crying, and I got up and I gave this woman a hug and I said, "I am so glad that your son just scratched my daughter's face because I've been there and I know what you're going through." Like, my capacity to have compassion has increased 100-fold, and so why am I not grateful for the things which the Lord hath allotted me? It's brought me so much more purpose, meaning, and fulfillment and joy in my life.