From Orange: Special Needs Spotlight – Lea Keating (Parent Perspective) #OC12
Lea Keating is a special needs parent. Lea is active in Truth North Community Church in Long Island, New York. Lea has followed Orange for some time and was excited to join the conference as a volunteer this year. We asked Lea to share a little about her perspective on the conference. Lea is also the founder of Sensory Street Kids.
AFL: How does your home church accommodate your child with special needs?
LK: While my church does not have an an official special needs ministry, they have been fantastic about accommodating Cole’s learning differences. We began attending our church when Cole was starting Kindergarten. Typically the elementary aged kids (including kindergarten-aged kids) go to the Uptown program which utilizes 252 Basics. The preschoolers are in Wild Kingdom learning from Orange’s First Look curriculum. When we first started attending the church, I explained Cole’s strengths (academic) and weaknesses (anxiety and sensory sensitivities) to the children’s ministry leaders. Together, we came up with a plan where Cole would be placed in a slightly younger class in the Wild Kingdom preschool environment. This way Cole would experience a smaller and quieter classroom inside a more controlled setting. It was great because the volunteers in the room found tasks for Cole to do and helped him to feel like a class leader even though he was a bit older than than his peers.
It wasn’t long before Cole was curious about what the bigger kids were doing. With the help of the children’s ministry team, Cole transitioned to the older, Uptown environment. Because Uptown is loud and fast-paced, I prepared the leaders that Cole might have a hard time with the large group worship and following directions. The leaders set him up with a friend and let him wear headphones to help reduce the noise. While the anxiety was there, overall Cole did GREAT.
As a parent one of the most comforting and wonderful things is that every single volunteer knows who Cole is. He’s “Mr. Popularity” – greeted with cheerful hellos and high fives by every adult we pass. His small group leaders are great about communicating how his day went and problem solving how we can improve his experience. What a blessing to be able to comfortably drop him off, knowing that he’s safe, happy, and in the presence of the Lord. We love our church!
AFL: What has been a favorite thing or “take-away” so far from the special needs ministry pre-conference workshops?
LK: I was just about brought to tears listening to Meghan Wall share about her special needs program at Stonebriar church. To realize that someone who is not a parent and not a therapist loves our children enough to learn how to fully accommodate them is awe inspiring. From preferred parking and smooth transitions with picture schedules to a sensory play room– they’ve thought of and are willing to accommodate all!The thing that stuck out most to me was hearing that once a year Stonebriar hires a professional photographer to take family portraits for the SN families. I know first hand how difficult it is to get a “nice” picture of my Aspie son. Eye contact remains our biggest issue and photos just never agree with him. Well, Stonebriar thought of everything and their pro photographer captured the most gorgeous candid shots. As if that weren’t enough they then make floor to ceiling sized murals of the kids and decorate the ministry’s rec room with the pictures! Meghan said parents were so grateful saying “you think our kids are beautiful!” I share that sentiment. Thank you Meghan and Stonebriar church for loving, including and valuing our kids.