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Many of you know I was at the 2:1 Conference a few weeks ago. One of my favorite things to do at this blogging conference is to connect with other special needs moms. These ladies are my online friends, my support group. There’s no pretense, just instant hugs! They live with autism or other special needs, too.
As we sat around the table Friday night, I let them know that I will be writing an article about special needs and church for my column in Home Educating Family Magazine. I asked them what churches could do to help special needs families. At first they just kind of sat there, surprised to be asked such a question.
Then the ideas came. Here are a couple, in case you work in a church or other public venue.
~A buddy to attend class with those kiddos who need one-on-one attention.
~Don’t clearly label a child with the name of her disability on their nametag to ostracize them.
These are great ideas, but what stuck in my mind the most was one autism mom’s story of a church visit. She dropped her two children, 9 and 10, at the child care offered during a church Bible study. She explained that her son doesn’t talk, wouldn’t talk, dont’ expect him to talk. When she came back to pick up her kids, her daughter said, “Mommy! That lady was so mean!” The daughter then explained that her brother had to use the bathroom, and asked her to get him permission. The lady in charge of the room would not let him go until he asked himself. She even told him that. She also would not let him get a drink of water unless he asked himself. Remember, he was asking permission through his sister, not just trying to leave the room.
I was heart broken, and dumbfounded that it happened in a church.
Please, please. If you ever work with special needs kids in any situation, don’t be so cruel! That child will never want to visit that church again, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a fear of any church for a long time.
I am blessed to be in a church who is seeking to expand its ministry to autism families and other special needs families as well. But I know that is rare.
So, here is my research question. I know many special needs families have a hard time getting to church for a variety of reasons. Whether you simply can’t get there, or you just need a more helpful church, what can churches do to reach out to special needs families? How can they help those who can’t get there, and how can they minister to those who attend but need accommodations? Please let me know in the comments below. It will help me write a better article!
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