A Place for Me


“God touched the children’s hearts,” says Sue.
“They began bringing piggy banks, soda bottles, and envelopes full
of money.”

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Build friendships. Another way to build
awareness is to build friendships. Many children and adults with
disabilities prefer to be in a regular class. When that isn’t
possible, Cheri Fuller and Louise Tucker Jones, in their book
Extraordinary Kids, suggest reverse mainstreaming. Simply invite a
couple of children from an age-appropriate class to join the child
in her special needs class. This can be an opportunity to build
great friendships.

The Friendship Class at Bay Presbyterian Church of Bay Village,
Ohio, offers ministry to children whose needs are best met outside
of a typical classroom setting. The Friendship Class is staffed by
a team of volunteers, with a one-to-one ratio. A nurse is also
present whenever there’s a student enrolled whose medical needs
call for this. When children are mainstreamed in regular classes, a
Buddy is provided. The church also offers a special needs support
group for parents.

“This group is open to mothers of children with hidden
disabilities,” says Libby Peterson, the director of Family Life
Ministries at Bay Presbyterian Church. “Parents of children with
hidden disabilities face some unique challenges. Many people, who
observe a child with hidden disabilities (no wheelchair), assume
that bad behavior is the result of bad parenting.” These parents
need support.

Adapt your facility. New church buildings and
playgrounds are required by law to meet the Americans With
Disabilities Act regulations. Check with your city government to
discover if your building needs an upgrade.

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Provide respite. Because parents long for
support, churches have found that families of people with special
needs cling to one another at retreats and camps. “Parents
described our Family Retreat as a bit of heaven,” says Margaret
Matasic, director of Joni and Friends in Northern Ohio. The success
of such retreats is due to many people from area churches giving
back to God their time, talents, and treasures. Margaret’s team
plans campfire sing-alongs, activities, ladies’ and men’s groups,
youth concerts, ropes courses, and wonderful worship times.

“Unless you have someone close to you affected by disabilities,
it may be difficult to imagine the enormity of the additional
strain this puts families under,” Margaret says. Families who come
together can provide immense emotional support for one another.


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