Dear Church, Dear Salvation Army – Give Special Needs Kids A Break!!

Let me be vulnerable with you for a moment.
We have a son who struggles with disabilities.
He has some severe educational challenges coupled with ADHD.
One might say, “oh, well they have medication for that kind of thing”…and you’re right, but did you know that usually when providing medications for ADHD it’s a crap-shoot as to what will ACTUALLY work?  Did you also know that there are some severe side-effects to these medications?  Some even have long term effects that only exhibit themselves later in life through health problems.  Our son has always been extremely sensitive to medication.  We tried some of the ADHD medications, one made our son as high as a kite.  Another led our son to have extreme bouts of anxiety that forced us to consult a counselor.

He’s a great kid.  He’s extremely creative, and he’s also very sensitive about it even if he doesn’t let on that he is. He also privately suffers from anxiety and depression because of it.
I don’t say this to make you feel sorry for us, I just want you to understand what I’m about to say.

kid1One moment in particular still strikes the protective parent chord in me.  We were attending a required army event.    We were all at this meeting including our son.  You have to understand that children with ADHD have difficulty sitting still for prolonged periods of time…it gets better with age, but it does take a. lot. of. time.   Anyway, back to the meeting.  There wasn’t a youth track for this event, and so all of the families were to sit through a three hour meeting…in ADHD time this is the equivalent of a year sitting in an uncomfortable chair.
Our son became rowdy and restless even with various distractions provided for him.  Finally, after another restless shuffle in a metal chair and a very loud exhale of frustrated breath, a soldier seated in front of us turns around and looked at us and our son with daggers in her eyes and a dirty look on her face.  Not a word was said, but words weren’t needed, we knew what she wanted to convey to us and we weren’t all too happy about the situation either.  It was at this point that we took our son out of the meeting despite the “required” attendance.  I wish I could say that this was the first time this has happened…it wasn’t.  I also wish I could say that it will never happened again…I can’t.  We struggle.  It’s not easy.  Perhaps some of you out there with kids who struggle with ADHD and/or other special circumstances can relate and understand.

Give Special Needs Kids A Break! kid2
Churches and Corps should be sensitive to families who have children with special needs.  Don’t just assume anything.  Please don’t judge or condemn.  If you happen to have new families come and visit your corps building who have kids who seem disruptive please don’t automatically judge them and assume that their parents don’t know how to control them.  Please respond with compassion and care.  Perhaps help if you can.  Some parents would really welcome the help…trust me on this.  Please don’t lecture us either, we are trying, we really are!

Our current corps has a child who attends with his family who is autistic.
His father really, really tries.  He’s a single father…and he needs a break.
This child might not fully understand what he does, but he knows that he is loved in our corps.
He might be disruptive from time to time, but our corps members help out with this child.
Are there any churches who are completely capable to handle special needs children?  I doubt there are many…but there are many patient, and compassionate soldiers and church members out there who could help, and usually do help.

So What?
Why do I write this today?
What’s my point?
My point is this:
Don’t judge or presume to know what parents with special needs kids are going through if you yourself haven’t been there.  Perhaps instead of judging, which takes much less of a concerted effort, you could help.  Try to be compassionate and understanding.  Yes, we go to church to listen to the message and get blessed but so do these parents who have special needs kids, and most of the time they only get half of a service.  Church is not only about the message and “getting blessed” it’s also about being the hands and feet of Christ.  It’s also about being a united community helping one another along in the faith.

So I guess what I’m saying is be aware of kids who might have special needs.
Don’t just pigeon hole them and label them as disruptive, disrespectful children.
They need our understanding…and so do their parents.

Give them a break!
Something more to ponder today!

Here are some links to check out:

Church helps Special needs
Additional Helps

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8 Comments

  1. Not an issue at our corps. All of God’s children are welcome. We have an adult special male who has Tourette syndrome and is autistic. He can be loud and moves a lot. We love him as God’s special child and go on with our service. Our young people often get distracted. We try to have some things available.

  2. Hi, I am a soldier at our Sault Ste. Marie corp.
    I bring in 3-6 disabled residents most every week. They do get loud, talk to themselves, up and down to the bathroom alot, sometimes. Our wonderful church is so adaptive to them, its amazing!!!! The Vosses let them collect thithes with help, sing and pray by their side. They have been part of our church family for almost 9yrs now. Capt Dan referrers to them as “our cheering cowd” 😃
    God Bless the Salvation Army cores! Amen!

  3. We do the best we can to accommodate and include, we have a special needs child who just finished his first year of singing company (was a moonbeam/cherub) and explorers. He participated in both of the musicals this year and even “sang” with the rest of the first graders during their “solo”. He isn’t disruptive and the kids are great with including him. The parents are appreciative of anything we can do to include him.

    Fortunately, we have some people with training and education, which is key. Even being willing to learn from the family, how we can make his experience in our programs the best thing for him. Talking with the parents and learning how to work with them is important.

    Special needs ministry is a passion of mine. I have also been part of discussion on how we, the army, can do better to minister to/with/alongside people with special needs and their parents/family members. Yes, we can do better!!!

  4. Our Corp actually hired a special needs teacher fir the nursery for my severely disabled child so that I can be an active participant. Our corporate officers have pulled them selves our of family night events to sit with my cranky child who isn’t able to participate quietly so that my older child and I CAN participate still. This Corp is the only church I have ever felt at home in and know they will always be there for us.

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