Have you ever wondered how your church handles and includes people with a disability? Did you know that only 50% of people with disabilities decide to even walk into the door of a church? (Harris Poll)
This is an issue that is difficult for many churches to wrap their minds around because it is vast, there are many different disabilities, and, because of separation of church and state, churches are not “required” to adhere to the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA).
To narrow down this big topic, we will be discussing children with disabilities in the church and some basic starter ways to include them in your programing and events.
These families have one or more children with a disability, but most of the parents do not have a disability. The parents of children with disabilities are under much of the same stress other parents are, however, they have the added worry of people accepting their child for who they are not what they look like or what they can or cannot do.
It is nerve racking enough to walk into a church where you know no one and drop your child off, but having to worry about how church staff as well as other parents and children view your child can be painful, especially when there is a lack of education about inclusion of those with disabilities.
Making the church more accessible should be a main priority for all churches in order to follow the mission set forth by Jesus in Mark 16:15. This mission states “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.“
So how do we include these families, make them feel welcome, and give their children the attention and accommodations they need without breaking the bank or stretching ourselves to thin?
Enlist Volunteers That Have A Heart For Those With Disabilities
This is the first, and easiest, step for churches of any size, to accommodate children with disabilities. By having these type of volunteers on hand, a church can take the collective knowledge of the body and build from it. Because these individuals already have a heart for those with disabilities they will, more than likely, have some understanding of disabilities from experience or formal education.
In a survey completed by Melinda Ault Ph.D. at the University of Kentucky in 2010, 90% of parents surveyed said that a church community that was accepting of those with disabilities took the stress out of attending church, however, only 80% of these parents found that acceptance at the churches attended.
How sad would you be if you desperately wanted your child to learn about Jesus with other children, but could barely walk in the door without a scoff or a stare from, not only people around, but leadership and volunteers as well?
By having dedicated volunteers, you not only give a more welcoming atmosphere to these families, but other people in the church have someone to point these families to making the message the same across the board instead of some people knowing the right resources and others having no idea.
Make Sure Basic Communication And Mobility Needs Are Met
The ability to get where you need to go and communicate with the people around you is an essential need for everyone. Those with wheelchairs will need access to an elevator, ramp, or wheelchair lift to get to areas of your church that have stairs. Individuals who are blind will need braille signs and/or assistance from another individual and those who are Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing will need Closed Captioning or an interpreter.
That can all seem very daunting, but there are many ways to go about placing these resources in your church. Ramps for wheelchairs start as low as $110 and can be easily installed and removed for convenience. Closed Captioning can be done while a message is taking place on screen by church leadership or a volunteer and reaching out into your church body may reveal an interpreter or a student training to be one that would be willing to volunteer. Finally, Braille signs can be easily made and start at just $14 a piece.
Ensure The Child Is Included During Service
Children, especially young children, do not understand that certain words and actions can hurt another person’s feelings. This is especially true when someone seems different. What a great teaching opportunity for all children about being loving to all people though! Leaders do not need to feel like they need to follow the child around if they do not seem to need it or it has not been asked for, but it is wise to stay in arms and ears reach away. This allows for the leader to easily step in and address any conflict or confusion that may occur.
Situation: You have an autistic child who is not super comfortable with other people touching him when another child comes up to give them a hug.
Talking Point(s): Explain to the child who wanted to give a hug that sometimes not everyone wants a hug right away, but that they can play together (rolling a ball back and forth, playing cars, playing with dinosaurs, making a meal with pretend food, etc.). Show the children how to play together and get them started on an agreed upon activity.
Take Away: This gives the child with autism the ability to get comfortable in the environment while teaching the other child about differences and playing with someone else in spite of the differences.
Allowing these children and families to have the resources needed to participate is such a blessing to them as well as to the church body. Every person deserves the ability to walk into a church and hear about Jesus and accessibility should not be a hindrance.
For more information please visit:
1. Disabilities and Faith– http://www.disabilitiesandfaith.org/
2. The Church and People with Disabilities by Peggy Johnson
3. Joni and Friends International Disability Center– http://www.joniandfriends.org/
4. Mission Frontiers– http://www.missionfrontiers.org/issue/article/the-deaf
You can also contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Check out Imagination Signing at imaginationsigning.com!
This post was featured on Peculiar Treasure! Visit this wonderful blog at http://www.thepeculiartreasureblog.com/
I am so excited to introduce this wonderful lady to you all! I started poking around her blog a few months ago and FELL IN LOVE with what she talks about and I think you will too!
So (drumroll please!) Without further ado, Kristin from The Peculiar Treasure!
She has a great post for us talking about Joshua so dig in and tell us what you are thinking!
6 Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.
7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left,that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Courage and Faithfulness
As a parent helping your child learn is one of the most important things to you, and sensory play is a fun and engaging way for your child to excel in many different areas. Sensory play encourages scientific processes because problems are solved using the five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. By stimulating your child’s senses, you are helping them develop creatively, socially and emotionally, cognitively, linguistically and physically through simply playing with them.
You have probably seen your child play with the most inexpensive “toys” like a paper towel roll, a pot and a spoon, or straws. Your child is using anything and everything to explore the world around them and encouraging this behavior will benefit you and your child by letting your child explore and create and giving you the opportunity to discuss what is happening in any given project.
By stimulating your child’s senses you are helping their brain develop because when a sense is engaged neural pathways are being created to assist with further learning in later years.
Sensory play is not only important for babies and toddlers, who often have the time to play and explore at home, but also for preschoolers and elementary children. When your child is allowed to use multiple senses to accomplish a task, they will learn more from the experience and retain more information. This ideal does not change as you get older, even adults retain more information when multiple senses are engaged! Even you are creating new neural pathways in your brain when engaging in sensory play, which can help negate Alzheimer’s(1), assist in creative thinking, problem solving, and time needed to respond to a catastrophic situation (2). Creating time for your child, of any age, to engage in sensory play is imperative for their long-time learning and health.Creating time for your child, of any age, to engage in sensory play is imperative for their long-time learning and health. Click To Tweet
So how do you start integrating sensory play into your everyday life? The good news is it is simple! By taking objects that you already have in the house you can create many fun experiences for you and your child. For example, take a colander and spaghetti noodles (or pipe cleaner) and challenge your child to put the noodles in the holes. They will be drawn to this experience and will start to develop basic motor skills as well as problem solving skills when they break the spaghetti noodles.
For older children play-doh and fondant are great ways to teach sensory play, as well as skills that your child can
use in the future such as baking a cake. Fondant can be used to make beautiful designs, but it takes time and patience to get the results wanted, both are needed skills in everyday decision-making and life.
Don’t be afraid to try something new and make a mess! This is a great time to bond with your child and create fun memories that will last a lifetime!
(1) How to Help the Ones We Love Symptoms and Strategies for:. (2016). Retrieved August 25,
2016, from http://www.alzheimershope.com/stop_delay.php
(2) Center for Brain Health. (2013, September 9). Retrieved August 25, 2016, from
Good Habits Make You Feel Like You’re Gonna Die. Published on May 31, 2012 by Loretta Graziano Breuning, Ph.D. in Your Neurochemical Self