A Parent’s Prescription for Disclosure
This post is part 2 from Christine Hoover, the mother of a son diagnosed with autism. In part 1 she shared with other parents the benefits of openly sharing a child’s diagnosis with the church’s children’s ministry. In this post Christine guides parents through the needed conversation(s) to initiate with the church staff so that their child may be successfully included in church programming.
As I discussed in my previous post, it is vital for parents to initiate conversations about a child’s special needs with the children’s ministry staff. Once parents have disclosed the disability or unique needs, following are some suggestions for the parent-church dialogue to ensure a child’s successful church inclusion:
Make an appointment with the children’s pastor. Go into the meeting with a clear agenda. What specifics will you share about your child’s diagnosis? What expectations do you have that you will communicate? How specifically will you partner with the ministry staff in serving your child’s needs? Do you have emotional and spiritual needs that the children’s staff and the church staff as a whole can meet?
Develop a ministry plan after the initial communication with the children’s minister. Tell the children’s pastor that you want to work with them to develop a ministry plan that serves your child and also fits within the framework and resources of the children’s ministry. What ministry events or programs will your child attend? Does your child need an extra person in his/her classroom? Are there accommodations that can be made for your child?
Determine what further communication is needed. Who will convey the ministry needs and plans to other children’s ministry staff and classroom workers? Is the diagnosis confidential or can it be shared with other ministry personnel? Will you and the children’s pastor meet every year for a re-evaluation of your child’s needs?
Offer resources (such as this blog) that will help your children’s pastor continue developing an inclusive ministry. Begin with, “I’ve found this resource to be helpful. Maybe you will too.” Also consider offering your assistance to other mothers dealing with a difficult diagnosis. Tell the children’s pastor if you are willing to share your family’s story or meet with other mothers.
Express your thankfulness and appreciation for the work your children’s pastor is doing, especially meeting your child’s needs. Your partnership and support goes a long way in the process of developing the best ministry plan for your child.
One final note: What if your children’s pastor isn’t responsive to the special needs of your child or to the gentle, appreciative requests you make? If your multiple communication attempts have fallen on deaf ears, consider speaking to the church pastor or prayerfully finding a church that meets the needs of differently-abled children. – Christine Hoover
Christine Hoover is a church pastor’s wife and mother of a son diagnosed with high-functioning autism. For more on Christine Hoover and her writing, see findinghopeinautism.blogspot.com