Discovering a Child’s Capacity to Learn
Never Underestimate Your Impact!
It was a typical Sunday, two weeks before Christmas. We were into the third week of the curriculum preparing the students for Christ’s birth and the Christmas season. As usual, Caton refused to join to the group for the lesson. Caton typically paced the room, sometimes even jumping in a notably jagged fashion from one wall to another. Some weeks he could jump across the room for twenty minutes straight! This particular Sunday was a good day. While Caton wouldn’t join the circle for the Bible story, he quietly laid on the floor underneath a weighted mat (an aid developed for children with sensory challenges).
Caton’s parents had shared with our ministry team that he had been diagnosed with autism. And while Caton never used words for his preferred communication style, I was aware that he understood language. During my teaching I posed the following questions to the listening children: “Who’s birthday is coming up? What special day is fast approaching?” Caton who had never previously responded, shouted from underneath the mat, “It is Jesus Christ’s birthday, son of God!” In shock and feeling emotion well up inside me, I pulled myself together and quickly responded, “Yes, Caton, you are correct!”
What I learned that day was never to give up. Just because a student does not come to group for lesson, refuses to make eye contact and does not engage in ways we expect, it does not mean he or she is not absorbing the teaching. Encourage your church’s ministry team and volunteers that their teaching is not in vain! Don’t write off the Catons of the world! Continue to invest in children with disabilities, sharing the gospel and God’s love. Even though we may not always have those moments of positive feedback and affirmation, know that seeds are being planted in the hearts of all of His children.
– Jackie Mills-Fernald
Jackie Mills-Fernald is the Director of McLean Bible Church’s Access Disability Ministry (McLean, VA).