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Special Educationcomment (0)

April 13, 2000


Landon Williams looks out the window as his two younger sisters run, jump, swing and run some more – playing with the endless energy and enthusiasm of youth. He has never experienced that freedom and realizes he never will.

Landon suffers from spina bifida and Rubernstein Taybi syndrome. These conditions leave him with physical disabilities and some mental retardation. He struggles to walk with a wrap-around walker, and he can’t tie his shoes due to the formation of his hands.

His condition leaves him missing some of the joys of being a child, but the 14-year-old has also amazed his family and the doctors by what he has accomplished.

Exceeding expectations

“He was never supposed to walk,” said Landon’s father, Bobby. “Neither did we expect him to ever talk.” And yet Landon communicates exceptionally well with family and friends. He walks ever so slowly, but he walks. He laughs: he watches movies; he swims; he enjoys life.

“What Landon has accomplished has motivated us,” Williams said. “He is an inspiration. He works so hard.”

“There was very little hope when he was born, but he has accomplished so much,” he added.

The Williams, members of First Baptist Church, Talladega, spend a lot of time with Landon and work hard at making his life as enjoyable as possible. They also credit his adaptive physical education teacher, his special education teacher and his Sunday school teacher for motivating Landon and pushing him to do more than he thinks he can.

Landon, who was selected as the 2000 Ambassador for the March of Dimes in the Talladega area, is active in various activities for special needs people. He swims in the Special Olympics and has qualified for the state event in the past.

As an ambassador for the March of Dimes, Landon and his family make numerous public appearances at March of Dimes events.

“They want us to be an ambassador family,” said Landon’s mother, Jo Ellen. “My job is to get us all there. Bobby’s job is to be the spokesperson,” she said, jokingly.

The duties going along with his new ambassador role fit right into the list of family activities the Williams encounter every day. Landon and his sisters – Laura, 11, and Lesli, 4 – keep the family running. Landon and Laura go to public school and both have extracurricular activities such as Landon’s swim practice.

And on Wednesday nights, Landon and Laura are the first ones ready to lead the family to church. Laura loves her Girls in Action class, while Landon would not miss his Sunshine Class.

A church home

It was those two classes that led the Williams to First Baptist, Talladega. ”We needed a church  thatwould meet Landon’s needs,” Mrs. Williams said. “And the Sunshine Class does that (see story below).”

While Landon is the youngest member of the class, all members of the class suffer from some type of handicap.

The teachers are comfortable working with people with handicaps, the Williams said. They work to meet the needs of each member, such as making tapes of the lesson for the visually impaired. The class also meets each Saturday to go bowling.

“Before we found this class, I would stay home with Landon because he did not have a class to attend,” Williams said. “We would both lose out.”

Along with ministering to people with special needs during the Sunday School hour, First, Talladega, also offers a special worship service for younger children with special needs called Rainbow Church. Landon is an active member of Rainbow Church.

“That frees us up to hear the Word of God,” Williams said. “We need it too.”

But with a special needs child, it is difficult to sit through an entire worship service without the child becoming restless and requiring attention from parents.

“Rainbow Church frees us up to hear the pastor’s message without interruption,: William said.

The Williams said the ministry provides a dual ministry in that it presents the gospel to the group at a level they can understand and gives the parents an opportunity to hear the Word of God attentively.

Providing such a ministry also benefits the church, the Williams noted. “The church will grow spiritually…and will be rewarded by God,” Williams said.

We are to minister the Word of God to everybody, even these special people.”


First, Talladega, ministering with ‘sunshine’

Ministering to people with special needs has become a tradition at First Baptist, Talladega.

The Sunshine Class was designed in 1975 for teenagers and adults. It uses LifeWay Christian Resources’ special education curriculum.

And about a year ago Rainbow Church was established for children with special needs. The Sunshine Class meets during Sunday School and on Wednesday nights.

“The (Sunshine) class was organized to provide Bible study and Christian fellowship for the mentally challenged,” said Amie Hubbard, director of music, activities, and outreach for the class.

The class not only teaches the Bible through stories, music and activities, but it also provides extracurricular activities, such as Saturday afternoon bowling and visitation a the area nursing homes.

Sunshine Class teachers also talk with each class member individually about their faith in Christ, Hubbard said.  (TAB)

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