July 4, 2011


It’s the Fourth of July! For most families, this means fireworks,  hot dogs, and parades. However, families who are affected by disabilities may not find this summer time holiday enjoyable. Sensory issues, special diets and social challenges make ordinary days challenging; holidays like these can become even more difficult.  For those families who are wishing that today were a bit more typical, please know that your friends here at Special Needs Ministry Community are thinking of you and praying for you…and we care very much!

We celebrate the Fourth of July because it was the day our forefathers declared our nation to be independent. The dictionary defines this as “not influenced or controlled by others in matters of opinion, conduct, etc.; thinking or acting for oneself; competent.” The founding fathers knew that this was best for the people in America. Parents also know that fostering independence is an important part of raising kids!

For parents of children with disabilities, this goal of independence seems elusive, if not impossible. Parents watch as other families celebrate the milestones of first words, first steps and potty training. As time goes by, these same parents watch as other kids make travel teams, get driver’s licences, and go on first dates. It’s common for these families to express loss, frustration and panic.

These feelings also extend into the faith community. While other kids go on retreats, serve in a leadership capacity or make the decision to be baptized, kids with special needs often struggle to “fit in” with their typical peers, even in a church setting.  And it hurts.

Families affected by disabilities live in a world that focuses heavily on what their kids CAN’T do. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, then, if the Church became a place that focused on what kids CAN do? A place where the gifts and talents of each person were not only sought and used, but truly appreciated? What a remarkable way for the Church to be a refuge.

How can we accomplish this? A few practical ideas:

  • Pray, individually, and as a group, that the attitude of the local church will reflect the Body of Christ
  • Be certain that every intake form asks the question, “What is WONDERFUL about your child?”
  • Communicate with parents who disclose information about a child’s needs. Ask how the church can help to increase the child’s independence
  • Break down tasks into small, manageable steps. Focus on what a child CAN do independently, and provide support and prompts as needed.
  • Celebrate independence…when a student accomplishes a new skill at church, be sure to let the parents know (and don’t forget to thank God for His support, too.)

Let freedom ring!

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