Parents need support alsocomment (0)
April 13, 2000
By By Alice L. Elmore
As a church seeks to meet the needs of each exceptional person in its congregation, there are other important needs they can minister to in the process.
Family support may be the most important aspect in a church’s special education ministry. A child with special needs requires more of a parent’s time than do most children. As a result, one parent may not be able to work full time. Otherwise, more expensive day care provisions may be necessary.
On an emotional level, parents of exceptional children may have little opportunity for free time or to spend with other children. Siblings may feel slighted or simply be confused about how their family is different from that of their friends.
“Don’t always assume parents are coping,” said Cindy Wester, the mother of an adult daughter with special needs.
Wester’s daughter Becky has spina bifida and has undergone 24 operations. Once, while she was recuperating from one of the surgeries, a church friend offered to bring supper every Tuesday night to the Wester home for several months. Relieving the Westers of a daily task gave them time to focus on the needs of their daughter, along with those of her older brother.
If there are other children in the family, a church member could volunteer to take a sibling on a special outing or babysit while the parents spend time with the other kids, Wester said.
If an area school schedules a day of parent-teacher conferences, a church could offer day care, specifically targeting parents who have children with special needs. Simply including individuals with special needs in church activities is a respite for parents, whether it gives them free time or allows them to attend a church service.
“That’s a great relief for parents, having one-on-one care for their child available,” said Bess Hatcher, parent of an adult son with Down Syndrome.
Also lending an ear can ease many burdens parents may experience. Often, if their child is school-age and has been placed in a regular classroom, parents may feel isolated. The problems and milestones they experience with their child are most likely nothing like those of the child’s classmates. Support and companionship from other class parents is hard to come by when there is little, if anything, to commiserate about.
In addition to offering encouragement to these parents, the church can take the support factor a step further by sponsoring get-togethers for parents of special needs children. As it offers child care or entertainment for those with disabilities, the church can open the door for parents to fellowship and to discover a bond with other individuals in situations similar to their own.
But, according to Wester, there is one extremely important way a church could easily minister to parents of children with disabilities: always remember that child and that family in prayer.