This summer, my special needs son got his first kiss…
The little girl who was the giver, is another special needs child, in his Sunday school class, who happens to be autistic. My son, age 6, was being the pastor in a little class skit, I was his interpretor, and the little girl came up to the front with us, and decided that she would hold his hand. The next thing I know, she grabs his face and kisses him…on the mouth. He hardly blinked an eye; she, on the other hand, had a very happy look on her face and grabbed his hand.
It was a moment in time where two special needs children participated in a Sunday school class, and apparently got the idea that a pastor leads the church, and he has a wife! Getting special needs children involved with their peers is a wonderful way to show them that God’s abundant love does exist in the Church.
However, sometimes it is confusing to the other church members who are not involved regularly with special needs children, to understand that these children do not need to be left to themselves, but made to feel a part of the Body of Christ. The bigger question is how does the church do that?
1) Recognize their disability. If you act like it isn’t there, it won’t go away…
2) Identify each child’s needs. Do they need assistance in cutting, drawing, gluing, or writing their name? Do they need a buddy to help them behave? Do they need a person to be their voice?
3) Find out the family’s needs. Are the parents burned out? Do they need a break during church and cannot leave their special needs children in the Sunday School because of their disabilities?
4) Look at dietary issues. More and more children are having their special needs “symptoms” treated with a gluten free, dairy free diet. It can have amazing results. If food is the mainstay of class, then that may isolate some children unless some accommodations are made. For example, I always have my son bring his own snack, but I allow him to drink the koolaid.
5) Identify calming places. Many special needs children have a sensitivity to noise, lights, or just business. They may need to leave the room with a buddy to take a break. Having a soothing sensory place would allow them to find a safe calm place for a short respite can help until they are ready to return. Each child may have a different place.
6) What are the ways to calm the special needs children your church has? Some children have a need for swinging or movement to soothe their systems. Others need hugs. Some need fine motor activities like playdough or coloring. Asking the parents will sometimes answer these questions.
When we are looking at the Body of Christ, are we not looking at the special needs children as well? There are a number of needs a special needs family may have, but we need to understand that they will not be the usual typical family issues. These solutions are just some examples of how these very blessed families can thrive and participate in the body of Christ with a little bit of creative effort.