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Ministering to Parents of Children with Special Needs {Practical ways YOU can make a difference}

June 8, 2011

I am delighted to feature this guest post from Cassi LeTourneau.  Cassi is co-coordinator of All God’s Children Disability Ministry at Good Shepherd Community Church in Boring, Oregon.  With Cassi’s permission, I have reposted this piece from her personal blog, Treasure the Rain.  

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{Notice Them}

Our parents taught us not to stare. Most likely we are teaching our children that very same thing.

Which is good.

Because it’s not polite to stare…at anyone.

However, intentionally turning away or telling your children to turn away could also be considered poor manners.

Instead, encourage your children to make eye contact and smile.

Don’t shush them when they ask “Mommy, what’s wrong with that boy?”

Instead, answer their question.

“Nothing is wrong sweetie. God made him special just like you are special. It looks like he even likes the same ice cream flavor as you!”


{Say Something}

Don’t miss the opportunity to know them because you think you don’t have the right words.

The fact that their child has a disability does not mean it’s the only thing they want to talk about.

“Where do you attend church?”
“Cute jacket! Where did you find it?”
“So how about those [insert sports team]?”

Simple right?

{Speak Directly to their Child}

It can sometimes feel more comfortable to speak about them, rather than speaking to them. It’s important that you make the effort.

Don’t say – “How was John’s day at school?”
Do say – “Hi John! How was school?”

John’s parent/caregiver will let you know if he is not able to understand but even if he does not respond…keep acknowledging him in this meaningful way!
{Ask Parents How They’re Really Doing}

You may hesitate to ask how things are going at home because you don’t want to bring raw emotions to the surface but–trust me–these parents don’t need you to remind them of their circumstances.

They remember.

Asking shows you care.
{Listen}

If you really want to understand someone you have to start listening to them.

Listening…not waiting to talk.

Most often we go into a conversation knowing exactly what we want to say. We tune in and out of what the other person is sharing waiting for our chance to chime in.

Try beginning a conversation with nothing more than a listening ear and a loving heart.
{Don’t Offer Advice}

Unless you are an expert on their specific disability please don’t think that you know more than they do about their child.

Even if you are an expert “in the industry” chances are they still know more about their child than you.

If they ask for your opinion…feel free to give it. If they don’t….they probably don’t want it.
{Offer Specific Help/Support}

If you truly want to help, decide on something very specific that you are willing/able to do…and offer that.

“Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.”

Most parents will never let you know.

Maybe they are too proud or maybe they are just plain tired.

Make it simple — Tell them what you can do, when you can do it and how you’ll get it done.

Example: I’ll come over on Monday and we’ll cook/freeze some meals for the rest of the week. I’ll pick up groceries on my way. Email me your list!
{Pray, Pray, Pray}

Pray for them. Pray for their loved ones. And pray for yourself.

Pray that God would give you eyes to see all people just as He sees them.

Pray that He would give you the courage to love like Jesus.

As a Children’s Ministry teacher, assistant or parent…please pray that God would give you discernment to see these children as the precious gifts they are and not as a distraction.

As we attempt to fulfill our calling in planting spiritual seeds in the hearts of God’s children, we need to remember that we are called to minister to the heart of EVERY child.

What better seed to plant than caring for and loving these sweet children.

Special needs and all.

-Cassi

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For more on Cassi and her service in the disability ministry of Good Shepherd Community Church, see Cassi’s blog www.treasuretherain.com.

5 Comments
  1. Great advice Cassi! I agree with every point! Especially offering specific help/support and prayer. Being a special needs mom is often lonely and isolating. The sensitivity of others goes a long way!

  2. Thanks to so many of you who have shared this post on Facebook, Twitter and through email. I am so pleased that Cassi gave me blessing to repost her writing. God is using Cassi and her ministry co-coordinators to quickly develop an inspiring and model special needs ministry in the Northwest. Their church’s ministry is less than 6 months old and it is already thriving. Stay tuned for more from Cassi on this blog and on her own blog. Thank you Cassi! ~ Amy

  3. I love love love this piece. So practical and so true. Thank you Cassi for clear, simple, understandable guidelines.

  4. Thank you for a wonderful article. I am an entrepreneur specialising in the provision of tourism, travel and transportation services for persons with special needs. I have been blessed with a fulfilling business opportunity and needed to share my blessings with my community and approached the churches for a dedicated disability awareness service. I was able to use this article as part of my introduction. Thank you very much. Desmond Brown South Africa

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